Bein Ó'Caoimh, a Transition Year (TY) student in Coláiste Cois Life in Dublin, outlines his learnings from a mental health placement in our TY Programme.
In undertaking this TY programme, I set myself a goal to gain mental health awareness. In February this year, just days before I started the placement, I lost a teammate and fellow student through tragic circumstances, making it even more important for me to learn more about mental health awareness.
Our first day
On the first day of the programme, I arrived at St Patrick’s University Hospital (SPUH) not knowing what to expect, but, from the start, I was made very welcome by both Amanda and Rebecca from the Walk in My Shoes (WIMS) team.
I was delighted to meet the other TY students. We were taken on a tour of SPUH and the surrounding campus, giving us a proper insight into how the hospital operates and its many facilities and services.
It was very interesting to learn the history of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS), which included the founder Dean Swift’s vision in 1746, when the hospital was founded. Today, their service has expanded to outpatient care, day patient services and inpatient care across three approved centres in Dublin, community-based Dean Clinics and remote services.
It was wonderful to hear the talk on mental health from Chief Executive Officer at SPMHS, Paul Gilligan. Paul gave examples of many issues and scenarios around mental health difficulties and the best ways to resolve them and a question and answer session, which I found extremely beneficial.
Highlights from the TY Programme
Throughout the week, I engaged in various interesting sessions where I continued to gain a better understanding of mental health. Each session was different and provided a broad range of knowledge.
In the mock multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting, I learned the responsibilities of everyone on the MDT. Each team member, from psychiatry and social work to pharmacy, plays an equally important role in helping each service user on their journey to recovery by putting a care plan in place best suited to their needs.
A session on career paths in mental healthcare was very informative. I would strongly encourage anyone who has an interest in working in the area of mental health to partake in the TY Programme. This is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn more about the skills, courses and work areas in the field of mental healthcare.
In another session, I got to learn about the experience of a past service user and it was wonderful to hear about her journey of recovery and for her to share her experience with us. I think hearing someone else’s experience of mental health difficulties was a vital part of the programme and gave me a better insight into what someone needs to begin a path to positive mental health.
One of my favourite parts of the course was the group work, I got to engage with the other students from across the country and work together to make a group presentation. We broke into groups and shared ideas and suggestions and communicated well as a team to make the presentation a success; it was rewarding to see all our work come together.
We covered the area of social media and its huge impact on mental health. We learned that one quarter of 16 to 21-year-olds in Ireland spends four hours on their phone a day. TikTok has between 1.5 and 1.8 million users in Ireland, while 79% of teenagers in Ireland have Snapchat and unfortunately due to COVID-19 lockdowns, 72% of teenagers use more social media. These are alarming figures!
Although social media can be a way of connecting with others, I strongly believe we need to find a balance with how we use social media and connect in other ways too, such as playing a team sport or just meeting for a chat with friends, as these things can be hugely beneficial to our mental health.
My key learnings from the TY Programme
As the week progressed, I gained more information and the tools needed to help family, friends or anyone in my community struggling with their mental health.
There are many ways to start to feel better, such as through therapies, support, family, and friends and getting out and about.
Mental health can be very isolating, so it is really important to reach out to others and stay connected.
By the end of the programme, I gained a vast knowledge about mental health and the many things we can do to support each other and ourselves. I also learned it is very important that, when we support another individual, we look after ourselves too. When we connect and link together, we can learn from and with each other.
After completing this programme, I know I can be a good friend, have empathy and take the time to listen if anyone confides in me about their mental health struggles. I also feel I have the tools now to guide them to get the right help and support.
I was given a wonderful opportunity to partake in the TY Programme, I am happy that I have reached my goal to gain mental health awareness.