Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power has welcomed new guidelines for primary schools on promoting positive mental health among their pupils. However, she warned they will only be successful if backed up by extra resources for schools and community mental health services.

Senator Power worked with schools and mental health professionals to develop Fianna Fáil’s Youth Mental Health Strategy in 2012.

According to Senator Power, “Together with parents, schools have an important role to play in promoting positive mental health in our young people. By normalizing discussion about mental health problems, they can encourage young people to talk and to reach out when they need help. They can also equip children with the coping skills they will need to deal with adversity throughout their lives.

“The guidelines released today will assist schools in doing this. However, they must be backed up by practical supports such as lesson plans and teacher training.

Senator Power also warned, “While schools can help reduce the number of children struggling with mental health problems, there will always be some who need specialised support from psychiatrists and other professionals.

“At present, the HSE service child and adolescent mental health service is hugely understaffed in some parts of the country, including my own area of North Dublin. As a result, very vulnerable children can’t get the support they need. If the Government is serious about promoting positive youth mental health, it will provide the funding to address this problem as a matter of priority”, Senator Power concluded.