Damien Delaney from St Brendan’s Community School in Offaly took part in our 2020/2021 Transition Year (TY) Programme. Damien tells us about what he took from the placement and the new perspectives that he gained to become a mental health ambassador for his school.
This year’s TY began with uncertainly. I had just come from what would’ve been my Junior Cert year and been locked down since March 2020. It was a breath of fresh air to know school would return to somewhat of normality in September. That it did, and we were lucky to avoid any major outbreaks in the school. With new guidelines in place, we were heavily restricted.
One evening I came home to an email from our TY Coordinator describing the opportunity for a placement in the Walk in My Shoes (WIMS) TY Programme, which was being run virtually this year due to the pandemic. I was immediately invested and read up on it. I sent in an email detailing my interest to participate and I was delighted to find out I was picked!
I didn’t know what to expect from the programme, especially this year since it was being run online in comparison to other years on campus. It’s fair to say I wasn’t disappointed, and the programme exceeded all my expectations! I was blown away by how well-rounded the entire experience was, despite the programme running completely virtually.
Our schedule was jam-packed. We got a full tour of the hospital and campus from the comfort of our own homes, we got to watch a mock multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting and learned about what the MDT entails, along with learning all about mental health.
Charlotte Frorath talked to us about the life experience and recovery journey of a past service user. Her compelling talk gave me a different perspective on mental health, which I was very appreciative of. My favourite part of the whole programme, without a doubt, has to be the Wednesday in which we were split up into groups and assigned the task of creating a joint mental health themed-presentation. My group decided to go through what we had learned so far about St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS) and WIMS. We definitely would’ve gotten the presentation done quicker had we done less chatting, but it all made the experience!
We became very proactive in school educating students about mental health and normalising conversations surrounding the topic. Each Wednesday is “Wellbeing Wednesday” in St Brendan’s, where we take time out of our day to reflect on our wellbeing in fun activities, such as chair yoga. With the Positive Mental Health Committee in the school, I, along with some friends, got the opportunity to talk about some of the initiatives taking place and all things mental health. We also ran a fundraiser towards the end of the year in which teachers dyed their hair funky colours for Pieta! It was a great way to finish the year and solidified the school’s efforts in receiving the Amber Flag, which was awarded in recognition of our outstanding contribution to mental health and wellbeing in our school community!
I am very grateful to have been able to participate in such a valuable programme, despite being in the middle of a global pandemic! Thanks to the experience, I feel now more equipped to be able to advocate for positive mental health in my school community and wider region along with stopping the stigma in our society.
After the programme, I felt a new sense of purpose. The #NoStigma campaign stuck with me, and I felt it was my duty after the programme to help reframe conversations around mental health stigma.
Find out more about the TY Programme
Interested in taking part in the TY Programme like Damien? See how to apply below, or, if you're thinking about future study and employment options, watch back on our talk about different mental health careers.