The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats it’s most vulnerable members.

– Mahatma Gandhi

The beautiful four star Davenport Hotel in Dublin city centre is set to host the first international conference entitled ‘Developing Education Support Pathways for Young People with Mental Health Difficulties’. The event, scheduled for March 30th – 31st, will see speakers from both sides of the border in Ireland along with contributors from France and the Netherlands. The aim of the conference is to celebrate excellence in the educational support of young people with mental health difficulties across the world and to open the discussion around the education of students with severe mental health difficulties during their educational years.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/120632374@N07/13974181800/in/photolist-nhRkoY-4ai2Sq-8eqcL6-Qp2K-9bCsqs-9ZycEo-fonJi5-5cVPQG-dFGJXK-j9HbdW-6bPTwP-gPST7H-2EAepd-biT4qv-aAMm7n-ogYUKT-pcL8eC-mZft3a-a3xacY-2fCJPR-sqg6j-fEVvx-kz93x-4CQiwW-mZUGsT-mZWoAf-mZUJmk-ngFVf8-PYHj1-9A5J5b-JjtjnJ-6e9gD2-94vBRA-q5rsht-3hQs6w-cPBj2Y-9bzn1F-PA2L69-mZUJU4-6NffuE-85tvBD-9qxRit-mZUJxH-gK5hUt-bYjzzU-6RToj2-3ZkaC8-ntJtqe-9qxQU4-pe6fvv

Mental health difficulties in teenagers. Photo Credit: Ryan Melaugh (Flickr)

Linn Dara School, located on the grounds of Cherry Orchard hospital in Dublin, is organising the conference in conjunction with Belfast Hospital School and Centre Soins Etudes, France. Each school will be represented by speakers on both days covering topics such as mental health in education, the school-hospital concept, classroom positivity, impact of technology on emotional wellbeing and the presentation of anxiety and mental health disorders as a physical disease. There will also be two dozen workshops held during the conference which are run by professionals and international experts in the fields of education and mental health.

The Irish Ombudsman for Children, Niall Muldoon has stated that: “Although progress has been made in raising awareness of mental health issues… there are currently major gaps and inconsistencies in the provision of services and that must be remedied. As Ombudsman for Children, I will use all of the statutory powers of my Office to hold Government to account in the provision of those services for children and young people with mental health difficulties. The time is now to make progress on these issues.”

Speaking to The Circular this week ahead of the conference, principal of of Linn Dara school Mr. Anthony Burke said:

We have presenters from many EU countries at the conference and we will see  examples of best practice internationally. Hopefully the conference will publicise the issue and be a first step in dealing with the issue.

Mr. Burke went on to lament the lack of action on behalf of the Department of Education: “The Department of Education has confirmed to me that there has been a marked growth in recent years in the numbers of children applying for home tuition for mental health reasons. It is heartbreaking to see the lack of educational support provided for out-of-school young people with significant mental health difficulties. It’s crucial that they remain engaged in the educational system in order to improve their life chances into the future.”

It’s simply amazing that the Department of Education has not done anything to help these vulnerable young people. No additional supports have been put in place for these children as the department is concerned that this increase is in response to the availability of alternative provision rather than in response to a real growing need.

The Circular also spoke to other staff members at Linn Dara Child and Adolescent Mental Health Hospital, all of whom are presenting or providing workshops at the conference.

Dr. Ann Buckmaster

Clinical Psychologist

“If teachers have an understanding of how their students with mental health difficulties perceive the school environment, then they can aid their overall experience of education and support them to stay in the system.”
Roberta Mulligan

Senior Social Worker

“Education is about learning and when we learn, we take risks. All educators need to consider how to cultivate a learning culture that feels psychologically safe for students to take risks.”
Barbara Riddell

Speech and Language Therapy Manager

“Effective language and communication skills support children and adolescents to experience success in school and maintain social relationships, both of which have a positive influence on mental health.”
Colin Granfield

Physical Education and Gym Teacher

“The importance of the link between physical health and mental wellbeing cannot be understated. If we can teach our students to take care of their physical health, it will help them set a solid foundation for taking care of their mental health in the future.”

A full schedule of speakers and workshops can be found on the event website – www.educationandmentalhealth.com – and tickets for the event are still available on eventbrite.ie

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