Wellbeing ‘central’ to work of schools

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Secondary education has a vital role in maintaining young people’s emotional health and wellbeing.

Northern Ireland’s education minister John O’Dowd was speaking during a visit to the Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-harm charity in north Belfast.

The minister wanted to see the organisation’s work and in particular its educational training programmes.

Between 2008 and 2012, a total of 112 young people aged under-19 died by suicide in Northern Ireland. The Department of Education has taken numerous steps to ensure teenagers have easy access to the information and support they might need during difficult times.

More than £2 million per year is invested in a dedicated independent counselling service for secondary schools. This makes available qualified counsellors to all post-primary pupils across the North.

Professional welfare support is also available to children through the five area education and library boards.

“It is a tragedy when we lose anyone to suicide. Sadly, it occurs all too often,” Mr O’Dowd said. “It is therefore clear why caring for young people’s emotional health is a central aspect of our local education system.

“While suicide is a complex issue with no clear single solution, I am committed to ensuring that young people have easy access to the information and support they might need during difficult times.”

Mr O’Dowd’s department’s iMatter initiative sees the distribution of thousands of posters, leaflets and homework diary inserts, in a range of languages, offering advice to young people on a range of issues.

These include drug use, bullying, family problems and coping with stress.

“The iMatter programme has also seen schools receive a special new guide to help them manage critical incidents, assisting principals and staff to be prepared and take the right steps in the event of a sudden or unexpected traumatic event within the school community,” the minister adds.

“The curriculum itself also has embedded within it elements which help children and young people identify the stressors in their lives and develop their ability to cope and deal with them.”


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