Two Laois secondary schools have won top national awards for their work to promote good mental health among their students.
Amber Flag teams at Mountrath Community School and Coláiste Iosagáin have scooped First and Third prizes respectively, at the 2018 Mission Possible School Achievement Awards.
The prizes come with substantial cash awards, Mountrath won €1,000 and the Portarlington school €300.
The ceremony was held at St Patrick’s University Hospital in Dublin, on April 20.
It was the result of a whole year's work in both schools on mental health initiatives.
In Mountrath the Amber Flag team of students and teachers ran initiatives including ‘The Sound Wall’ ‘Music4Mental Health’ ‘Schools Go Orange Day’.
Their jam packed Mental Health Week saw the return of #mindyourselfie, walk in my shoes and mental health workshops.
Their slogan for 2017/18 compliments of Amber Flag Man was ‘it’s ok not to feel ok, not all superheroes wear capes!!’
Members of the Amber Flag team along with their teachers Katie Wallace and Michelle Carroll were overwhelmed to scoop first prize.
”It is so important to make the students aware of having good mental health,” said Ms Wallace.
Their 'Walk in my Shoes' day was about trying to understand other people's stories, experiences and challenges.
”“Walk in my shoes' was really successful. Kids often think only of themselves, and are often totally unaware of each other's emotions and well being. We all must share the responsibility of caring for each other, being compassionate and understanding, showing strength in kindness,” she said.
“We were overwhelmed with the terrific reception this day and the amber flag got in the school. The students loved the activities with the amber flag, and we intend to continue to work on this in Mountrath CS,” she said.
The Amber Committee at Coláiste Iosagáin in Portarlington won third place in the the Walk in my Shoes, Mission Possible Awards.
They were one of seven schools shortlisted across Ireland.
The team won for its 'Lotus Programme' run in the school over the past year to support students in body and mind.
The lotus flower grows and blossoms out of murky waters, signifying the overcoming of lifes challenges.
Their rojects included the Rise and Rave, Resilience Day, Empower Your Voice and a new Just Breathe Campaign about to be launched in school.
“We are very proud of our students and staff,” said teacher Carol Browne.
Now in its second year, the Mission Possible Awards Ceremony recognises schools from all over Ireland for their effort and contribution to tackling the stigma surrounding mental health both in the classroom and in the wider community. Presentation College Carlow won Second prize.
The judges included Fergus Finlay, Barnardos CEO, joined this year’s judging panel, CEO of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services Paul Gilligan, and Walk in My Shoes Project Manager Amanda McArdle.
Paul Gilligan said that creating a mentally healthy environment at school can have a lasting impact on students' wellbeing.
“Children and teenagers spend approximately a third of their childhoods in school. Schools across the country are doing exceptional work in this area. A key aim for the Walk in My Shoes campaign, and the Mission Possible awards, is to acknowledge this work,” he said.