Concerns raised about Leaving Cert students’ mental health

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Galway County Councillor Evelyn Parsons has expressed concerns about the pressure on students who are sitting the traditional Leaving Cert and other state exams this year after prolonged uncertainty and disruptions through the pandemic.

Cllr Parsons was speaking at this month’s Regional Health Forum where she put forward a motion calling for targeted mental and emotional health supports to students sitting state exams.

The Independent councillor said that she was pleased to gain widespread support for the proposal, with members of the forum agreeing to escalate to the National Office Of Mental Health and Wellbeing.

“I welcome that it is now going forward for consideration of rolling out a National Student Mental & Emotional Helpline,” said Cllr Parsons.

The Independent East Galway Councillor proposed that HSE West put a Student helpline in place to provide additional mental and emotional health supports targeted specifically to pupils sitting state exams this year.

“Over 60,000 students sit the Leaving Cert annually and even more students experience exam stress also.

“I proposed to pilot it in HSE West and that it would assist in expediting a fast track for urgent intervention and referral to specialist services. I’m pleased the Regional Health Forum felt there was merit in my proposal.

Saolta CEO Tony Canavan, Ms Breda Crehan Roche of Community Healthcare West and senior executive staff supported the proposal of a student helpline at national level as well as other councillors.

“I hope to see this implemented without delay so that it can serve our youth as a valuable mental and emotional resource for years to come,” said Cllr Parsons.

While there are mental and emotional health resources available, funded by HSE through Jigsaw, Mindspace Mayo, West be Well, the East Galway councillor said she was concerned that students who are already overwhelmed with reading materials and bookwork and low mood might find it unwieldy to get to the information they need.

Cllr Parsons said she was also concerned that a national resource might not be in place quickly enough to assist this cohort of young people with upcoming exams in HSE West area.

Ms Breda Crehan Roche Community Healthcare West agreed to put together a more user-friendly format of existing resources immediately for students and youth.

”It is important the resource information is presented in a user-friendly manner for students’ quick access,” added Cllr Parsons.

“I welcome the additional online platform at Westbewell.ie which launched since I raised this issue at the Health Forum last month, and thank Ms Crehan Roache for her responsiveness in compiling mental health resources in a user-friendly format.”