Four Kildare students joined Transition Year students across Ireland to graduate as Walk in My Shoes mental health ambassadors during a special online ceremony held to celebrate the class of 2021/2022. The Kildare students that took part this year were:
- Anna Halvey of Coláiste Chiaráin, Leixlip, Co Kildare
- Aoife Delaney of Kildare Town Community School, Co Kildare
- Ciara Travers of St Mary’s College, Naas, Co Kildare
- Rebecca Kelly of Confey College, Leixlip, Co Kildare
For over 10 years, Walk in My Shoes, the flagship education and awareness-raising campaign of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, has run a Transition Year programme inviting over 100 students from across Ireland to take part each year. The week-long programme runs five times during the academic year between October and March, with 20 to 25 students per programme.
Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the programme was adapted to an online format, and has been delivered digitally, with specially adapted interactive sessions designed to give students a comprehensive and engaging experience. During their placements, students receive first-hand insight into how a mental healthcare service operates and the experiences of those with mental health difficulties. They meet mental health experts and clinicians; hear from people who have gone through mental health difficulties and their experiences of mental health recovery; and discuss mental health stigma and ways to tackle it.
With significant challenges to recruitment noted over the last few years, particularly in the mental health sector, the TY Programme also provides students with a chance to learn about career pathways in mental health and the various opportunities for a career in this sector.
The programme is hosted by the adolescent mental health team and staff at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, who deliver approximately 20 sessions to students across the week. This year, the participants undertook a range of activities which included viewing a mock multidisciplinary team meeting with psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, nurses and social workers; taking part in sessions with pharmacists, the medical director and the CEO; and participating in group presentations. Throughout the week, students build their mental health awareness and leave the programme empowered to act as mental health ambassadors in both their schools and local communities.
To celebrate their completion of the programme, students were joined in an online graduation ceremony by Walk in My Shoes Ambassador and ultramarathon runner, Conor O’Keeffe.
He said: “As someone who has experienced mental health difficulties for many years from my late teens and in to my 20s, I know the importance of raising awareness around mental health and reaching out for help when needed, especially among young people. The Transition Year Programme is an amazing initiative for students to learn about so many aspects of mental health; from mental healthcare to tackling stigma. Congratulations to all of the participants in this year’s TY programme; it is so encouraging to see a new group of young people that can act as advocates for mental health.”
Amanda McArdle, Walk in My Shoes’ Campaign Manager said, “The Transition Year programme gives students a fantastic opportunity to learn from clinical staff here at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services about what it’s like to work in mental healthcare, while also giving them insight into the experiences of those with mental health difficulties. Each programme aims to empower students with the tools to go out and promote positive mental health and wellbeing among their peers and community. It is a privilege to see the energy and enthusiasm that students bring to learning about mental health.”
For more information visit walkinmyshoes.ie. To date, over 1,000 students have completed the Transition Year programme.
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