Psychologists support Shannon’s school friends and teachers

A range of psychologists and other mental health experts were on hand to support Shannon Gallagher’s schoolmates and teachers after the tragedy.

Many of the services were already in contact with students and staff at Finn Valley College in Stranorlar since the death of her sister Erin in October.

The school is run by Co Donegal Vocational Education Committee, whose chief executive Shaun Purcell said the welfare of students and staff is its primary concern.

“We have just been made aware of the tragic death of Shannon Gallagher RIP, a fourth-year student at Finn Valley College. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, school and community at this sad time,” he said.

“This is an extremely difficult time for all concerned. The critical incident team is in place in the school as a support for students and staff,” he said.

Psychologists from the Department of Education’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) were at the school as part of the critical incident team.

“They are supporting the school staff in responding to the needs of the pupils at this difficult time. They are working in collaboration with colleagues from the National Office of Suicide Prevention and the HSE clinical psychology, and child and adolescent mental health services,” a department spokesperson said.

She said Education Minister Ruairi Quinn and the department were deeply shocked and saddened to learn of Shannon Gallagher’s death.

“We would like to extend our sympathies to her family and friends. The priority of the department is to provide support and assistance to the students and staff at Finn Valley College at this very difficult time,” the spokesperson said.

Mr Purcell said the VEC understands the media are anxious to cover the tragedy, but it asked that the appropriate agencies be allowed the necessary time and space to support the school.

Teachers’ Union of Ireland president Gerard Craughwell said schools must be able to give the proper follow-up supports after traumatic events affecting students. But, he said, the restricted availability of guidance counsellors in some schools because to budget cutbacks is a big issue in the day-to-day running of schools.

He said there are huge problems arising from new staffing arrangements since September, under which schools must now count guidance counsellors within their overall teacher allocations. Previously they were additional to standard staffing numbers, meaning counsellors at some schools are now timetabled to teach classes to avoid loss of subjects or bigger classes elsewhere.

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