“Be who you are, what you were born with, the biggest gift of all.”

This was the key message of Motivational Speaker, Gerry Hussey, Performance Psychologist, who delivered a powerful presentation to students at Roscommon Community College as part of celebrations for Positive Mental Health week, which took place the week of Monday, 20th March. Fittingly enough, International Happiness Day kicked off Positive Mental Health Week at RCC as a variety of events and initiatives got underway across the school community. The week was organised as part of our application to be awarded the Amber Flag as we raise awareness of Positive Mental Health within our school. At the start of the academic year, a committee was formed which included five teachers and six students and it was decided that our slogan for the week would be “Mental Health = Mental Wealth”.

At the start of the week, we were delighted to welcome Mike de Jong of CAMHS (Child and Adolescence Mental Health Service). Mike spoke to students about issues that affect their mental health and a myriad of information was dispensed as Mike talked through issues as diverse as coping with change, exam stress, dealing with bullying and building resilience, as ultimately we learn to accept ourselves and each other.

Reverend Alistair Donaldson took the time to attend Mental Health Week on Monday, as he spoke to our Leaving Cert students about issues that affect our mental health. His colleague Marian spoke about her own difficulties with depression and the journey her life took as she worked through these issues. Marian’s story was very powerful and it was reassuring for our young adults to hear about recovery from serious mental health issues.

Later in the week, a stimulating session was delivered by motivational speaker Gerry Hussey, who has been working at the forefront of Olympic and International Sport since 2003. In his role as Performance Consultant, Gerry has coached elite athletes for Olympic Games, Heineken Cups, European and World Championships. He brings an unrivalled wealth of honesty, experience and infectious passion to his work, from Golf to Sailing and Olympic Boxing and Corporate Coaching, and his work with the Irish Boxing Team in the Beijing and London Olympic Games has been well documented and acclaimed.

In his address, Gerry reminded students that they have everything they need to be happy from the day are born, and he proclaimed that we need to tell ourselves more frequently that “We can do it!” He explained how he believes we are designed to overcome ‘it’, and that we as human beings are innately conditioned to keep trying. All in all, a powerful message of optimism and hope.

A convivial atmosphere was enjoyed by all in RCC during Mental Health Week. Throughout break-times and lunchtimes, music was played in the GP room and a positive thought of the day was read out over the intercom. Traditional Irish music sessions were widely available and an impressive musical recital took place under the guidance of Ms. Smyth, during which our melodic students showcased their musical talent.  

As part of the Transition Year programme of events, students are involved in a pilot twelve week “MindOut” programme – a mental wellbeing programme for post-primary school students programme organised by NUI Galway. In conjunction with the “MindOut” programme and Positive Mental Health Week, Art Teacher Serena Joyce worked with staff and students to create a short video “Not All Wounds Are Visible” which was launched during the week to great acclaim. TY students also took part in Qigong with Cathy Fox. This is an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention. The word Qigong (Chi Kung) is made up of two Chinese words. Qi is pronounced “Chee” and is usually translated to mean the “life force” or vital-energy that flows through all things in the universe. In addition, Mary Cunningham and Caroline Winters, the local Youth Justice workers delivered a programme called ‘Be Happy, Be Healthy’ to TY students for a day. The workshop focused on helping students to develop a greater awareness of mental health. It gave them the opportunity to practice and apply skills learned and guided them through how to build resilience and how to feel comfortable in their own skin. The modules covered included visualisation and relaxation, kindness and compassion, what exactly mental health is, and what helps and what hurts. Students gained a lot of practical advice from the session and really enjoyed the day

As we liaise with local service provider Vita House, Nevard Whelan, Psychologist visited RCC on Wednesday.  Nevard spoke to 1st Year and TY students about issues around Mental Health. He engaged students as to what they felt would help students in need and he spoke about the triggers and tell-tale signs of someone in difficulty. He also spoke about the services offered by Vita House. The Thomas Maher Foundation supplied Irish Flag Pins and these were sold during the week, while students also raised funds with the sale of delicious smoothies in the GP room. As a result, Dr. Chambers was delighted to present Vita House with a cheque for €130.

ReachOut.com workshops were provided by Roisin Doolan for all students and in these workshops we explored the term mental health and what it means, talked about ways we can all mind our mental health, explored mental health problems and where we can find support in our community if we or someone we care about is going through a tough time.” Mind Your Selfie” workshops were organised by Edweena Farrell as students explored the issues around Social Media, as we learned that social media often Creates Unnecessary Pressure, negatively impacting mental health. Online Addition, Sexting, Online Gambling Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Photoshopping and the prevalence of cyberbullying online were among the issues addressed in these workshops

On Friday afternoon, past pupil Paul Reynolds shared his story on Mental Health with our 5th year students. Paul spoke bravely and emotionally about his first hand encounter with anxiety and depression and about being a service user of Pieta House. He encouraged our pupils to look out for each other and reassured them of the non-clinical and confidential service Pieta House offers. He reminded the students of the phrased coined by Bressie "It's OK not to be OK".

Throughout the week, great importance was placed on fitness and each year group partook in a fitness programme each morning, followed by fruit, with the aim of promoting a fitness and a healthy eating culture. Meditation and Yoga classes were organised by Home School Liaison Officer, Sinead Ryan on Friday morning and this proved to be a big hit with the students. A skipping club was held at lunchtime and this looks set to become a regular feature of break time at RCC. A session of ‘speed gaming’ was held in the GP room and as expected, this drew a large crowd. Mental Health Week drew to a buoyant close on Friday afternoon, as 1st and 2nd year students had a festival of sporting events to bring the week to a successful conclusion.

We would like to express our thanks to each and every individual and organisation who visited our school and facilitated a workshop or information session during Positive Mental Health Week 2017. Giving of your time and expertise is very much appreciated by Ms. Finneran, Coordinator of Positive Mental Health Week, and all at Roscommon Community College. A big thank you to everyone concerned.


Slogan - Mental Health  = Mental Wealth


First Year students enjoying Positive Mental Health Week: Left to Right- Gabriela Majek, Selina Aramusu, Frantisek Kompus, Micheal Duna


Sinead Dillon and Michaela Dunova promoting our healthy and homemade smoothies for Positive Mental Health Week 


Speed Gaming at Lunch on Wednesday



First Year students participate in the Skipping Club



Gerry Hussey, Performance Psychologist addressing 6th year students


Dr. Chambers presents a cheque for €130 to Nevard Whelan of Vita House



Musical Recital at Roscommon Community College




Obstacle Course for 1st and 2nd Years


Meditation Time, Yoga with teachers and students


Paul Reynolds with 5th Year Students Conor Corcoran, Anita Silva, Michael Egan, Maria Lohan, Paul Reynolds, Danny Arnold, Marcus Croghan and Natasha Brady.