A Post Primary Programme for Positive Mental Health
Together we can change the landscape
Breathe was funded by IPB Insurance and ESB from September 2013 to September 2016 in partnership with the Education Training Boards Ireland. The project partners are exploring funding opportunities to continue the national programme roll out.
Breathe is a programme developed to raise awareness around positive mental health for young people. This programme is designed for students, teachers and parents. It will question our assumption about suicide prevention and teach communication, listening and coping skills to help create a closer community.
The foundation of the Breathe Programme is creative drama, an approach specifically developed for educational and awareness raising purposes. The programme specifically addresses elements in the “The Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention (issued by the Department of Education and Skills) through creating a creative learning environment.
Breathe was established as a not-for profit organization with the purpose of creating awareness on positive mental health, supporting “The Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention issued by the Department of Education and Skills.
The Breathe programme specifically addresses elements in the Prevention Guidelines through creating a creative learning environment. Moreover the structure and rationale of this programme addresses the reality that problems arise in everyone’s lives but coping with them is a strategy that can be learned. Breathe, unlike other programmes in the Suicide prevention field is not dealing with students who are at the cliff edge rather it is teaching them to cope in order to avoid ever getting there.
Breathe comprises of 4 workshops for parents, teachers, management and students. Workshop 1 discusses the rationale for a prevention policy in every centre/school. Workshop 2, 3 and 4 are facilitated by trained personnel and constantly evaluated and reviewed. The school community is an extension of the family unit and we must ensure the core is healthy. We must adopt a unified approach based on knowledge and common sense in order to bring about change.
The programme has now been successful in over 200 schools and feedback in the main has been very positive from students, parents, psychologists and staff.
Breathe has been a great success, meeting its stated aims of helping adults and young people develop a stronger awareness of mental health and well-being through a quality arts experience. The legacy of the programme can be seen as lifting silence, improving communication and enabling people to think and speak more freely on difficult issues. There was a genuine appetite for more amongst the workshop participants, more discussion, more knowledge and more workshops . The opportunity for creative expression of emotions and the ability to see and think from other perspectives was invaluable. The positive impact that this work has on young people, particularly those who have direct experience of mental health issues, cannot be underestimated and the work should be continued. It was noted Breathe have brought together the best of deep dialogue work and creative expression through drama in a safe yet challenging environment. Participants are encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and are supported as they explore new or previously hidden territories.
The programme has also contributed to the wider sector – it was acknowledged by two psychologists that the work of Breathe Programme reaches into new areas that the traditional methods don’t touch on.
“We feel as psychologists that this is a very useful preventative programme to help young people alongside their teachers and parents to use positive ways to deal with Mental health issues and develop skills and resiliency for coping with life challenges. We feel that not only does it raise awareness for young people around the issues of mental health but also gives them the tools to become more resilient around these issues. It has received a very positive response in the centres where it has been run. One staff member commented “the best piece of experiential learning in years”
Georgie Maher Reg. Couns. Psychol., Ps.S.I.
Claire Donohue Reg. Couns. Psychol., Ps.S.I., AF Ps.S.I.
Breathe is a joint partnership between the public/private sector, Education and Training Board Ireland and the Gaiety School of Acting. It is a professional response to the ever increasing suicide trend. Research indicates that schools that incorporate music, art, drama, dance and creative writing into their curriculum significantly increase a student’s overall success in school.