Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Department of Education and Skills

Mental Health Services

Photo of Jackie CahillJackie Cahill (Tipperary, Fianna Fail)
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81. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the strategies that are in place to offer mental health supports for primary and secondary students, including access to emotional well-being supports in schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23668/22]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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The provision of child and adolescent mental health services lies specifically within the remit of the Department of Health and the HSE. HSE Primary Care Psychology Services and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) provide a range of clinical support to children and young people with mental health needs. However, the Department of Education also plays an important role in supporting the well-being and mental health of our young people.

The Department’s Well-being Policy and Framework for practice has given recognition to the importance of promoting well-being in education. The approach set out in the Well-being Policy is a whole school and preventative approach which has multiple components that include providing children and young people with opportunities to build core social and emotional skills and competencies, experience supportive relationships within the school setting and be part of a school environment and culture that feels both physically and psychologically safe.

It is important that all children and young people feel a sense of belonging and connectedness, that their voice is heard, and they feel supported. Schools are encouraged to use a reflective, school self-evaluation approach to identify and prioritise the needs of its own school community in relation to the promotion of well-being and mental health, and to respond to meeting those needs. Embedded in the whole-school approach is the recognition that members of the school community may have different needs at different times and that a continuum of support in relation to well-being should be made available.

A broad range of supports, resources and professional learning opportunities are being provided to support schools to promote and support well-being and resilience. My Department's Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) commenced a national roll-out of CPD for all schools on the implementation of my Departments Well-being Policy in March, which will make initial training with follow-up support visits available for all schools in the country over the next three years. My Department's National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides a comprehensive psychological service to all primary and post primary schools. NEPS is a school-based service which means that all its psychologists work in schools with children, young people, teachers and parents, and are involved with school-related work, every day. The NEPS psychologist provides a range of services that may include supporting the well-being and inclusion of an individual pupil, through assessment and intervention. NEPS supports approximately 8000 individual children annually through this type of work. NEPS work also supports teachers in their work through providing professional learning opportunities, such as about trauma informed approaches, supporting autistic children, or delivering the Friends for Life programmes to help reduce anxiety. NEPS supports an estimated 25,000 teachers annually in this way.

The Department – through NEPS, Student Support Teams, Guidance Counsellors and other services - will also continue to signpost schools and students to the HSE/HSE-funded e-mental health services. The Department has built strong links with the Department of Health and both Departments are exploring ways to improve supports for young people, including around increased awareness, promoting help-seeking behaviour and sign-posting to the wide range of available services. We will continue to collectively explore ways of improving supports for children and young people.

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