From sums and science to sit-ups and squats — students have swapped school books for work-outs to boost their mental health.

The fitness instructor who runs the Cork gym where Olympic race-walking hero Rob Heffernan trains put some 200 students of Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh in Bishopstown through a series of tough physical workouts as part of its week-long positive mental health awareness campaign.

Laura Dorgan, the owner of Laura Dorgan Fitness and the manager of Fitnessworx Gym on Tramore Rd, where Olympic medalist Heffernan trains with his strength and conditioning coach, Robbie Willliams, said she was delighted to get involved.

“I am passionate about my job and after 11 years in industry, I feel that fitness needs to be branched out in relation to the promotion of positive mental health and mindfulness,” she said.

“Teenagers are so immersed in social media today and I feel that this contributes greatly to the problems associated with the increasing levels of mental health issues and anxiety.

“I hope this will kickstart something really exciting and positive for young people around the county, or even the country.”

Teacher Siobhán Cahalane, who helped organise the campaign, said the whole-school approach aims to raise awareness about the value of emotional resilience and mental well-being.

“We hope to make this part of the day-to-day life of the school,” she said.

“We hope to get the message across that the students should talk to one another, and look out for one another, and to stress, especially amongst young men, the importance of looking after themselves and others.”

Former Munster and Ireland rugby coach Declan Kidney also addressed sixth year students on how they should accept that self-doubt is normal, and give them skills to improve self-belief and motivation.

Inspirational mental health advocate Conor Cusack also shared his story, telling the students it is okay not to feel okay, and how to ask for help, and where to find it.

As part of the project, the students were also asked to get involved in random acts of kindness, handing out lollipops to fellow students as they arrived for school, with other students playing music in the school foyer before classes.


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