The tragic and untimely passing of two Wexford students back in December formed a sombre backdrop for a conference for staff members at all five of Wexford town's secondary schools last week. Aimed at putting a firm focus on young people's mental health, some 320 staff were in attendance from St Peter's College, Wexford CBS, Selskar College, The Loreto and The Presentation, with the schools closing their doors to allow them attend.
The 'Building Connectedness in our School Communities' event was hosted by the Regional Suicide Resource Awareness Office of the HSE/South East Community Healthcare and the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS). Taking place in Clayton Whites Hotel, the conference featured several renowned keynote speakers including Athol Henwick (HSE Self Harm Intervention Programme Coordinator), Billy Redmond (National Educational Consultant), Bríd Carroll (Chair of the Irish Childhood Bereavement Network) and Jacinta Kitt (Author, Lecturer and Researcher).
As well as hearing from the speakers, staff members also participated in parallel information sessions that addressed a broad range of issues relating to mental health promotion and suicide prevention.
Along with HSE and NEPS professionals, these sessions were also delivered by partners including Wexford Mental Health Association, Barnardos and other groups.
Sessions focused on areas such as 'working with students following a critical incident', 'supporting the mental well-being of young people in schools', coping and resiliency, mindfulness, an 'introduction to Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), Adverse Childhood Experiences, talking to young people about grief and loss and supporting anxious teens.
'We plant to evaluate today's event with the participants but the expected outcomes are increased capacity of school staff to manage adversity in their working lives, enhanced knowledge amongst the staff on the availability of services and how to access those services and improved collaboration between agencies working in the area of mental health promotion/suicide prevention,' said Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention Tracy Nugent.
'This initiative is broad based and will hopefully benefit the participants in their personal and professional lives.'