Wednesday 22 November 2017

'I never really had friends before' - Irish teens with anxiety on the funding-starved scheme that changed their lives

Jason Kennedy

Jason Kennedy

A number of young people dealing with anxiety have opened up about how an alternative to school has changed their lives.

The Dublin youths take part in the Linn Dara School Transition Programme, which educates pupils who do not attend school due to anxiety and other mental health issues.

At present, 20 young people take part in the scheme, which operates out of one room in the Palmerstown Youth and Community Centre.

The popular programme was due to end in 2016, but was saved by the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee.

Now the pupils whose lives have been changed by the scheme have spoken out about how it has helped their educational and social development in the hopes it will help continue funding.

Jade Rose (15)  was out of school after an illness and was the victim of bullying from other pupils, but found herself feeling at home once she started attending the Linn Dara Transition Programme.

“Coming here I thought I was just going to get an education, but I got friends out of it. I never really had friends before,” she said.

“It’s actually not like I’m getting friends. It’s like I’m getting a family here.”

For 15-year-old Zoe, anxiety prevented her from attending school. When she tried to get back into it, she struggled.

“I found it really stressful. I missed a lot of stuff and I found it really hard to catch up.  I felt quite miserable there. Eventually, I just stopped going and I didn’t really know what was going to happen.

"Once I came [here], I found that everyone was really understanding. They were all just like me."

Zoe was a very quiet child but was doing well in school, according to her mother Joyce.

“She didn’t socialise outside school. Little by little, she missed more school. She said she was always being put down that she wasn’t good enough,” she said.

“She realised now that she’s just learning at her own pace.”

There is a big different between approaching teachers in second-level schools and approaching teachers in the Linn Dara Transition Scheme, says Ciaran (17).

"I was afraid to talk to teachers or speak up if I had a problem in class," he said in the video.

"I think, one of the biggest things about here, is that the teachers are almost like your friends. They treat us like human beings.”

These young people are the lucky ones who have found help, according to the programme's QQI Level Three Co-ordinator Noirin O'Loughlin.

“I think there are hundreds of students at home in bedrooms who can’t go to school," she told Independent.ie.

"This programme works and parents are at the end of their tether with the lack of help and support."

Despite the financial challenges that comes with the programme, Ms O'Loughlin says she is delighted with how well the youths who take part progress.

For more information on the scheme, visit the website here.

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