'Healthy Minds' initiative launched at Thomastown's Grennan College

Aim is to equip students with skills and supports to better thrive through the mental, emotional and social challenges of adolescence and school life

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Group 1 of the Grennan College Students for Buddy Bench. Picture: Harry Reid

Staff and students at Grennan College in Thomastown have launched an innovative initative aimed at promoting positive mental wellbeing, friendship and inclusion.

Buddy Bench’s Healthy Minds programme targets students in second year. The aim is to equip them with skills, tools, and a shared culture of mutual support, so they will be better able to face and thrive through the mental, emotional and social challenges of adolescence and secondary school life.

ESB Funding for Generations supported the Healthy Minds programme in five schools in County Kilkenny: Scoil Aireagail Ballyhale, Colaiste Cois Suire Mooncoin, Castlecomer Community School, Duiske College Graignamanagh, Grennan College.

The pilot programme builds on the already successful ‘Buddy Bench Programmes for Primary Schools’.
Healthy Minds covered topics such as anxiety, mindset, resilience, coping strategies, interpersonal and social media relationship skills.

“We are all aware of the massive challenges young people face as they try to navigate a safe and fulfilling path to adulthood,” said Jeffrey Gormless of Buddy Bench.

“Everyone wants the future generation to succeed, to fulfil their dreams, to be happy and productive. Most of all, Buddy Bench hopes that our work helps young people to build together a culture where a healthy mind and free expression go together to create an open, creative and mutually supportive society, one where it is easy to ask for or offer help and understanding.”

Buddy Bench conducted an evaluation with school principals, students and class teachers before and after our intervention, to find out the real needs of young people and what supports they need.

Jeffrey Gormly, Creative Director, Buddy Bench, Muirna O'Connor, Buddy Bench, Sam Synnott, Buddy Bench & Sean Og O'Sullivan, Principal of Grennan College

“This feedback will help us improve both content and delivery of our programs,” says Mr Gormley.

“As far as we know, this is the first evaluation of this kind ever conducted in Ireland. We intend to return to these schools next year with an even better experience for students.”

Buddy Bench was founded in 2015 by Sam Synnott and Judith Ashton, and with the help of a local team of experts in creativity and mental health, they have delivered their Little Buddies, Buddy Bench Aware and You Are a Hero to 36,000 children in 222 schools in Ireland North and South. They won a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Elevator Award in 2016, and have participated in the Google Adopt-a-Startup Programme in 2017.

They are currently supported by Enterprise Ireland and Irish Research Council, and are working with Maynooth University on a full evaluation of our programs.

“Our mission is to empower a generation of children to create a world where it’s OK i.e. normal, natural, easy and fun, to express yourself,” says Mr Gormley.

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