Students from St. Joseph’s Secondary School from Tulla entertained a crowd of 4,000 at Student Leaders’ Congress tackling teenage Mental Health issues
Created to discuss and raise awareness of mental health and wellness issues faced by young people in Ireland today, pupils from more than 150 schools across the country attended the one-day conference. Former Munster and Ireland rugby player, Alan Quinlan, a devoted advocate of mental health awareness who has openly talked about his own mental health struggles in the past, addressed the crowd of young people.
During his address, Mr. Quinlan talked about his own experiences with mental health issues and gave advice to attendees on allowing themselves to be open and honest with others when they are feeling down. He also highlighted the importance of young people learning the essential skills of building resilience and coping mechanisms that will allow them to navigate the challenges of day-to-day life.
Talking about his involvement at the Cycle Against Suicide Student Leaders’ Congress event, Alan Quinlan adds: ”Mental health has been a huge part of my journey, and I’m keen to impart on others, especially young people, the struggles I faced and how I’ve learnt to address these. It’s vital that we continue to put mental health high on the agenda and this conference has given me the opportunity to speak to 4,000 young people today about their mental health and building resilience.“Young people are the future of Ireland and they are setting an example with their willingness and openness to address mental health issues. It’s incredibly important that we encourage and support this through events like the Cycle Against Suicide Student Leaders’ Congress; and that we help to equip young people with the necessary knowledge and skills to combat negative mental health and break the stigma that’s attached to it.”
Other speakers at the Congress touched on a variety of important topics including mental health difficulties, social anxiety, body image issues, issues affecting those in the LGBTQ+ community, consent and respect, trolling and how to offer hope and build resilience in young people. The event also hosted talks and workshops from a number of experts in the field of mental health and wellbeing.
The Congress also hosted a performance from popular Irish band, Chasing Abbey, who took to the stage to perform some of their hits for the audience. Additional entertainment was supplied by musicians from St. Joseph’s Secondary School from Tulla, Co. Clare.
Now in its fifth year, the Student Leaders’ Congress is organised by suicide awareness and prevention charity, Cycle Against Suicide. Ireland has the fourth highest suicide rate in the 15-19 age group across 31 European countries with statistics from the National Self Harm Registry (NSHR) showing some worrisome trends. In 2018 according to the NSHR the national rate of self-harm among males in Ireland was 193 per 100,000, 7% higher than 2017. Among females, the rate was 229 per 100,000 in 2018, 5% higher than 2017. Cycle Against Suicide is working to reverse this trend of suicide and self-harm in Ireland and offer hope to those who may be battling mental health issues.
Speaking at the event, CEO of Cycle Against Suicide, Caroline Lafferty, said: “Cycle Against Suicide is honoured to have hosted another successful Student Leaders’ Congress event today and we’d like to say a huge thank you to all of our speakers for sharing their expertise and experiences with students from across Ireland.
“Educating the public on mental health and wellbeing is more important now than ever before, particularly for young people who are facing many more challenges to their mental health today than previous generations. Through events like our Student Leaders’ Congress, we aim to provide young people with the tools they need to build resilience and coping mechanisms that will help them to overcome these challenges.”
Cycle Against Suicide’s main campaign for raising awareness into communities is its Annual Cycle. The route, which changes yearly, passes through towns across the country, raising awareness of the help and support networks that are available to people across Ireland that are battling depression, self-harming, at risk of suicide or have been bereaved by suicide.
The 2020 Cycle Against Suicide is taking place from Saturday April 25th to May 3rd, cyclists can register and find out further information by visiting www.cycleagainstsuicide.com.