Let’s Get Talking…About Our
Secondary School Mental Wellness Programme
Autumn 2020 brought the reintroduction of our 6-week Secondary School Mental Wellness Programme for second-level students in Galway thanks to the support of Bank of Ireland’s Begin Together fund, which offered grants to 116 project-based activities across Ireland to improve the financial, physical and mental wellbeing of communities. This funding allowed two of our psychotherapists, Grace Harrison and Edel Lawless, to expand upon the former programme and deliver it to a group of seventeen Transition Year students in a DEIS secondary school in Co. Galway; it will also facilitate further delivery of the programme in two more DEIS Secondary schools in Spring 2021.
An interactive psychoeducational and skills-based programme, its’ primary purpose is to help students to self-manage their mental health, to encourage them to seek help at an early stage, if they encounter mental health difficulties, and to signpost them towards a variety of supportive services.
In week one, students were introduced to the concepts of self-management and self-care, the importance of each and what they may involve.
Caption: Our psychotherapist Grace taking students through the eating behaviour spectrum, highlighting a variety of eating disorders including the uncommonly recognised disorder of orthorexia.
Week two focused on emotional and mental health fitness (part one) which involved understanding resilience and how to build personal resilience, identifying emotions and learning how to process emotion to build resilience, and the role of self-esteem in resilience.
Week three continued with the topic of emotional and mental health fitness (part two) and focused on anxiety triggers and anxiety management and introduced students to a range of practical positive coping mechanisms such as mindfulness, emotion-freedom-technique (EFT), breathing techniques and guided imagery visualisations.
Week four visited physical health and body image and focused on eating behaviours (mindless eating versus mindful eating), specific eating disorders, the impact of social media on body image and understanding how we can take care of our bodies to build physical and mental health and develop a healthy body image.
Week five focused on the topics of developing a personal identity, understanding the role of shame (shame triggers and management) and peer relations.
Finally, week six expanded upon week five and focused specifically on learning how to set safe boundaries in relationships and on building conflict resolution skills (assertiveness skills and active listening skills).
The students appeared to be most engaged with the topics on week four (physical health, body image and managing social media) and week six (boundaries with peers and conflict resolution). Feedback indicated that they enjoyed the interactive role-plays, educational videos, and the range of topics covered. They specifically requested the inclusion of other important topic areas such as depression and sexuality. As Let’s Get Talking moves forward, into 2021, with the further delivery of our six-week Secondary School Mental Wellness Programme, we will most certainly incorporate such topics, continually ensuring that we are providing the most fully comprehensive wellness programme for second-level students in Ireland.
The Transition Year group in Archbishop McHale College, Tuam, Co. Galway, who participated in Let’s Get Talking’s Secondary School Mental Wellness Programme, November-December 2020.