Schools need more help to to support distressed students

Heywood principal says tragedies revealed need for more supports

Schools need more help to to support distressed students
By Lynda Kiernan @laoisnews

Three tragic deaths over the past year have caused the principal of a Laois secondary school to ask for more help for schools to cope with distressed students.

Speaking after a Laois Connects talk on teenage emotional wellbeing in Heywood Community School, principal Philip Bowe called for Government investment to help teenagers in distress.

“The talk made us aware, for parents, schools and the HSE, that if a child is suffering, something must be done urgently,” he said.

“There needs to be better, more pervasive psychological services in secondary schools. That takes investment, but there was none provided in the Budget. Staff are not psychologists,” Mr Bowe said to the Leinster Express.

The school suffered three tragedies at the start of this school year.

They are mourning the death of vice principal Geraldine Ryan from cancer, and that of two students, including a young teen who took her own life, to the grief and shock of her family, the students and the staff.

“What the talk tells us, as parents and educators, is that we are not doing it all wrong. There is no set of rules, but there is a lot more to be done,” Mr Bowe said.

He said it was good that the school hosted the annual memorial Kathleen Gorman Talk, held last Wednesday night October 12.

“We are delighted to be part of Laois CONNECTS, and to see so many parents here from our school and the surrounding area. It is very relevant for our school, and for every school,” he said.

The talk was given by Paul Gilligan, CEO of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, part of Laois CONNECTS mental health awareness week.

The large audience heard that one in three teenagers experience anxiety and one in ten need specialised support.

He said that modern parents spend more quality time with their children, yet feel more anxious and guilty that they are not doing enough, while mental health services remain underfunded and understaffed, with children in distress left waiting up to two years for professional help.

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