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It is refreshing and relieving at the start of the 2015/16 school year to see that public awareness is realising the need for students to have access to an open line of communication to share their anxieties/problems.
Congratulations are due to Niall Breslin for the setting up of Walk in My Shoes Helpline and also to Carrigaline Community School having been awarded Ambassdor School status by the Cycle Against Suicide charity.
However, even in the Ireland of today, there is still a stigma attached to mental issues that needs to be overcome. The recent approval of the right to gay marriage in a country that could not see outside the doors of the Catholic church for many years, shows how society is overcoming some prejudices but mental problems can still be a taboo subject.
So many students nowadays are suffering anxiety disorders and need to know that there is somewhere to go or someone they can open up to before resorting to prescription medicines for help. The 10-minute slot allocated to individuals by doctors is not enough to see the whole picture.
Counselling or even simple mindfulness/exercise are being promoted so much more nowadays but society needs to taken this even further. A step should be taken in secondary schools to set aside time — a specific unit/module/period — where youngsters meet and share experiences through discussion with their own peers in a non-classroom like environment.
The work of counsellors, pastoral guidance and mentoring from older students have become an inbuilt part of school life, and have a lot to offer, but this time would be solely devoted to students relaxing and being encouraged to open up to each other under the supervision of an adult.
The youth of today are encouraged to feel far more comfortable in their own skins than we did even 20 years ago, but this type of open forum could be an added incentive for them to open up.
Discussion of simple everyday matters may just lead to relief for some knowing that others are having the same difficulties as they are, or it could go a step further by encouraging the introvert to stop harbouring issues that can be resolved when shared and discussed.
Would it not be worthwhile if it helped even one such individual every calendar year?
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