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Six young Laois people among 160 to take part in mental health debate in the Dail

Shauna Traynor, Dan Bergin, Lucy Doyle, Anna-Maria Sahaidac, Veniamin Sahaidac and Jack Marron

Over 160 young delegates from Comhairle na nÓg (local youth councils) across Ireland met in Dáil Éireann to debate the critical issue of mental health recently.

Among them were six people from Laois – Shauna Traynor, Dan Bergin, Lucy Doyle, Anna-Maria Sahaidac, Veniamin Sahaidac and Jack Marron.

Mental health was identified by over 3,000 young people across Comhairle na nÓg as their priority issue for discussion in advance of the day, which they feel that the Government should do more to address.

Dáil na nÓg, Ireland’s National Youth Parliament, now in its 22nd year, tackled a range of issues related to mental health, including body image, school stress, and mental health services.

The biennial parliament, which provides a platform for young people to speak about and make recommendations on the issues that most affect them, was hosted by the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, who chaired the Opening Session in the Dáil Chamber.

There were closing remarks in the chamber from Minister of State for Mental Health & Older People, Mary Butler.

Delegates from Comhairle na nÓg – representing each of the 31 local authorities across Ireland – filled the committee rooms in Leinster House where they took part in workshops to debate the three mental health topics.

Discussions were held around how mental health affects the lives of young people in their communities and what changes need to be implemented to address these challenges and improve the experiences of young people in Ireland.

Following a formal vote in the afternoon where delegates processed through the lobbies of the Dáil, school stress was selected as the priority topic.

This will inform the work of the incoming Comhairle na nÓg National Executive 2024-2026, who are tasked with advocating for policy change in this area during their tenure.

Previous years’ themes have included equality, climate action, education, and transport. 2022’s delegation voted for ‘A more inclusive Relationships and Sexuality Education’ as the priority topic.

To progress this the National Executive 2022-2024 contributed their views to two National Council for Curriculum and Assessment submissions, attended round table discussions hosted by the NCCA on the content, and conducted surveys with Comhairle na nÓg members.

They have also invited and taken part in discussions with relevant experts in the field from the Department of Education, Dublin City University, the Health Promotion Research Centre and the World Health Organisation.

They have made a proposal to the Department of Education who welcomed their work and committed to consider ways in which to implement their recommendations.

SEE ALSO – Club by club: How the Laois football clubs have graded their players for 2024