‘There should be a dedicated mental health professional for every school in the country’

A Dominican College student is continuing to push for better mental health supports in schools.

Fifteen-year-old Aisling Murphy set about working on the ‘Mental Health in Irish Schools‘ initiative last year after witnessing her sister struggle with severe anxiety. Aisling has set up a petition requesting the Irish Government to investigate providing a system of mental health supports in Irish schools and has just begun recording Zoom interviews with those interested in adding their voices to the discussion. The petition already has over 500 signatures.

‘I started the petition to help raise awareness about mental health,’ said Aisling.

‘This is an issue many students, parents, teachers, professionals and politicians feel very strongly about. I have been in contact with TDs and senators about the initiative. We want the Government to put in mental health supports in all schools all over the country so there will be a dedicated mental health professional for every school.’

Aisling’s Zoom interviews with others interested in taking part in the discussion are available to view on her podcast.

‘I have spoken to Mark Ward, TD and published it to the Mental Health in Irish Schools YouTube Channel. Jim O’Callaghan TD and Marina Dillon, psychologist in training, took part last week. I spoke with Maria Parker today, who is a clinical nurse specialist and a psychotherapist and I am due to speak with Mary Butler, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People next week.

‘I hope that by speaking to a wide range of people with differing interests and experiences, these interviews will promote discussion of the issues and raise the awareness that these supports are very much needed within the school system. Two of the interviews I did are up on the podcast and two more are due to be posted. It was really interesting hearing the different points of views. The pandemic probably made things a little easier because more people are now online or on social media,’ added Aisling.

She also has a mental health fair planned for the Dominican College Wicklow which will take place if Covid restrictions are lifted. She aims to pull all her work together so it is contained in the one document which she hopes will allow other students in other schools to run similar campaigns and awareness events in the future.

‘I want to get involved so I can see these changes being made. There should be a dedicated mental health professional for every school in the country. The approach to mental health in the Irish school system in Ireland must be improved. Student and parent voices are missing from this vital discussion and therefore I am looking to interview students, parents, past pupils and those who also wish to advocate alongside side our voices in order to strive for change,’ said Aisling.

Mental Health in Irish Schools is inviting others to take part either in recorded interviews or via a guest blog post if they have something they think would benefit this discussion. Aisling can be contacted via the website https://mentalhealthinirishschools.wordpress.com, and on Facebook and Instagram at Mental Health in Irish Schools.

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