Mission Accomplished in 2020!

We announced the winners of our fourth annual Mission Possible awards on 27 May 2020.

With schools taking extraordinary steps to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers and students all across the country went to amazing efforts to create new projects and initiatives aimed at keeping a positive attitude and reducing anxiety – and this is something we wanted to shout about!

Primary and secondary schools were invited to submit their entries to our three awarding categories: Best Standalone Project, Best Programme Activity and Most Creative Idea. Our judging panel - Paul Gilligan, Chief Executive Officer of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS), Tamara Nolan, Head of Communications and Advocacy in SPMHS, and guest judge, John Doran, Guidance Counsellor in the Patrician Secondary School and author of Ways to Wellbeing – then chose our six winning schools.

Highlights of the 2020 entries included feelings charts, a Buddy Bench, and a Strengths Tree, as well as one entry from a winning secondary school which stayed connected during lockdown through a specially created Instagram wellbeing page for its classes.

Paul Gilligan highlighted the importance of teachers and students staying involved in mental health initiatives during this period of uncertainty.  He said "“it is likely that the greatest emotional impact of this global pandemic will be on children and teenagers. Finding understanding, meaning and emotional resilience in such circumstances is particularly difficult, and teachers have a key role to play. I would like to congratulate these teachers and students on their achievements and commitment to promoting positive mental health. A teacher’s continued support and encouragement throughout this pandemic will have a lasting impact on their student’s mental health, and will highlight to them the importance of becoming an advocate for mental health throughout their lives."

John Doran highlighted the high standard of entries and commended the focus on wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying "I was delighted to be involved in this year’s Mission Possible initiative, and to acknowledge the achievement of these students on behalf of their community. Minding your mind has never been more important.  The wide range of initiatives and positive outcomes demonstrated by all schools, at primary and post primary level, showed a high level of innovation and commitment across the board. I would like to thank the students and teachers for their creativity and hard work, and for sharing such messages of positivity when we need it.”

Meet the 2020 winners

Six schools were chosen to receive awards within three categories, with winners announced in our congratulatory video. The video replaces the annual Mission Possible awards ceremony, usually held at St Patrick’s University Hospital. All participating schools also received a Certificate of Achievement.

  • Best Standalone Project

    This award celebrates a once-off project that displays the great work schools have done to promote positive mental health.

    In the primary school category, St Stephen’s National School in Johnstown, County Meath won first prize for their Buddy Benches project. St Stephen’s introduced Buddy Benches as a visual, friendly way that children who find it difficult to strike up conversations can show they are looking for a friend; the benches promote positive interactions and, with that, enhance students’ wellbeing. The school began research on the impact of the Buddy Bench on the school, and produced a video which gives clear insight into students’ understanding of the Buddy Benches. The video is shared on the school’s internal system to be shown to all classes, and can be used to inform parents of incoming Junior Infant classes about how their children can play and make friends in the school yard.

    In the secondary school category, Marino Community Special School in Bray, County Wicklow was awarded first prize for their project which saw students collaborating to write a piece of rap music, expressing their thoughts, opinions and emotions. The song they wrote was recorded, with students handwriting the lyrical sheet. As well as the creative process of making music being very mindful for students, it also offered a shared social activity, opened up conversations, and helped to ensure that students had their voices heard.

  • Most Creative Idea

    This award brings the wow factor, by highlighting the most original, inventive, or fun ideas used to open conversations, reduce stigma or share positive messages around mental health. 

    Woodland National School in Letterkenny, Donegal won first prize for its ‘Strengths Tree’. The school painted a tree on the wall of its hall, adding leaves to the tree when students demonstrate particular character strengths. Each half-term focuses on a single strength, with some of this explored including kindness, creativity and perseverance. The focus strength is explained to students though storybooks and videos, with teachers and Special Needs Assistants then giving a leaf to students who display these strengths. Students can then decorate their leaf and add it to the tree each Friday. The initiative creates awareness of the importance of different character strengths among staff and students, and is very helpful in promoting inclusivity.

    In the secondary school category, Mercy College in Coolock, Dublin won the top prize after introducing a Wellbeing Committee primarily driven by students. Staff and students on the committee carried out surveys in the school, making numerous presentations on these to staff and teachers from other schools. The committee came into its own during the coronavirus lockdown, setting up an Instagram page which runs competitions and posts positive messages and advice on dealing with the situation. Teachers and students have also hosted live events, including fitness classes, meditation and mindfulness sessions, yoga classes and ukulele classes.  These efforts have helped the school community to maintain healthy minds and bodies during the lockdown.

  • Best Programme Activity

    This award celebrates innovative mental health programmes and initiatives which reach out to young people, teachers and the community and provide meaningful, lasting support. These programmes would involve a calendar of mental health events or activities.

    St Joseph’s National School in Dún Laoghaire, Dublin won first prize in the primary school category. Here, the school formed a student council to spearhead a programme which sees children in all second to sixth classes having feelings charts on their desks so they can check in regularly with their emotions. All first to sixth classes have worry boxes, where students can let teachers know of their concerns. Every Monday, students receive ‘happiness homework’, where they do something pleasant and document it. The school also communicates mental health activities and messages through newsletters and social media.  

    Our secondary school winners were Merlin College, which ran a series of mental health initiatives under the Cycle Against Suicide School programme. In September 2019, the school ran interactive workshops, welcomed guest speakers and promoted the importance of being kind in an anti-bullying week. October’s ‘Talk It Out’ imitative encouraged students to share problems and concerns. November focused on LGBTQ awareness and understanding, as well as coping with stress as an adolescent. In December, the school displayed an advent calendar suggesting random acts of kindness, while, in January 2020, it hosted a coffee morning in support of Pieta House. A celebration of women in the school community was also held in February. These various initiatives prompted discussions and awareness of the importance of support, with more students reaching out to the guidance team.

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