Jenny Beirne-Bowden, Kilkenny College
A Kilkenny College student joined Transition Year students across Ireland to graduate as a Walk in My Shoes mental health ambassador during a special online ceremony held to celebrate the class of 2021/2022.
Jenny Beirne-Bowden took part in the week-long programme runs five times during the academic year between October and March, with 20 to 25 students per programme.
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.
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 under took 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 a variety of 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.
“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,” said Amanda McArdle, Walk in My Shoes’ Campaign Manager.
To date, over 1,000 students have completed the Transition Year programme. For more information, visit walkinmyshoes.ie.
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