Written answers

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Department of Education and Skills

State Examinations

Photo of Gerald NashGerald Nash (Louth, Labour)
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522. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if additional mental health supports are being put in place for 2020 leaving certificate students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18820/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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My Department’s response to support the wellbeing of all within school communities is aligned with HSE guidance.  The HSE advises that, in responding to psycho-social needs in the aftermath of an emergency, a graduated four-level model of care is required.  This is based on the knowledge that, people are naturally resilient and most will adapt with the provision of basic practical and empathetic supports while acknowledging some groups will need additional and more intensive levels of support.

My Department has worked closely with the Department of Health and the HSE on the In This Together campaign which aims to help everyone in Ireland to Stay Connected, Stay Active, and look after their mental wellbeing throughout the Covid-19 Emergency. The In This Together campaign draws together the huge range of advice and support that is available for people of all ages. To support the wellbeing and mental health of our Leaving Certificate students at this time, a dedicated page on the InThis Together site contains online advice for Leaving Certificate students.  This webpage includes a series of supports on managing wellbeing, stress and anxiety, developed by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) of my Department. The webpage also includes links to more individualised support for students to access, should these be needed. It is recognised that some vulnerable groups of students may require a more focused, stepped-up level of intervention and this Department along with the Department of Health and HSE have ensured the most appropriate services and resources are clearly signposted for those students. The stepped care approach recognises that at present, there already exists services that offer online text and telephone supports to people seeking mental health information and advice. These include the Samaritans; Pieta House; MyMind; Turn2Me; Aware; Crisis Text Ireland; Shine; BeLongTo; LGBT Ireland; Jigsaw; Bodywhys and Childline. The YourMentalHealth.ie website provides a ‘one-stop-shop’ portal for people seeking information, supports and services, including information on accessing urgent help and a mental health text messaging support service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days each week to connect people with trained volunteers.  

Also to support Leaving Certificate students and their parents the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC), the Irish Second Level Students Union and the National Parents Council together with the Department and other key stakeholders have come together and are collaboratively planning a comprehensive Leaving Certificate Helpline for early September, which will be available on the day the Leaving Certificate results and CAO offers are released and a number of other days that same week. Meetings have been taking place with the stakeholders and plans are well underway. In the coming weeks the operational plans will be confirmed and the Department in conjunction with  all the various partners will advertise the Helpline supports and operational times. Unlike previous years, this year schools will be open when the Leaving Certificate results are released, so students will have access to their guidance counsellors and other members of the school’s student support team, which should provide students with additional support if they are anxious or have guidance-related questions.

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