We are fourth year students from Mercy College, Coolock and we did our YSI project on anxiety. YSI stands for Young Social Innovators and it gives us a chance to help make a change on issues that we feel strongly about in today’s society.
We chose to do our project on anxiety because everyone around us at one point has suffered from a type of anxiety in their everyday life. According to Mental Health Ireland 1 in 6 people will suffer from a type of mental health issue like anxiety each year. Studies show that this figure is steadily increasing. We chose to focus mainly on the 1st year students who were making their transition from primary school to secondary school and the 3rd and 6th year students who were in the middle of preparing for their mock exams and have their junior and leaving certificate in the summer.
When starting this project we conducted a survey throughout our school and found that 53% of the students we surveyed had suffered from a type of anxiety at one point. After finding this out we held an awareness week to help spread the word about our project and give people tips and ways to help beat or manage their anxiety. We had a poster display in the foyer of our school with positive quotes and the ways to manage anxiety. These included journaling, listening to music, talking to someone you trust, exercise, etc. There was a “happiness hacks” board in the foyer of our school where students and staff could go and write things they do to make them happy or just a positive message for everyone to see when they walked past. We also made daily announcements over the intercom with facts and tips to do with anxiety.
With the 6th years being under a lot of pressure with their Leaving Cert in the near future and their mocks coming up at the time, we decided to organize a yoga day to help relieve any stress or anxiety that they might have at the time. We set up our hall with a speaker and yoga mats for all the students and got a professional yoga instructor in to do a yoga session with the girls. We also did a hot chocolate morning for both the 3rd and 6th years the week before their mocks to help them relax and destress before their exams.
We did colouring therapy with the new first years of our school during their religion and SPHE classes to try and relieve any anxiety or worry they had during their transition from primary school to secondary school. We made a video for the incoming first years who will be coming to our school in September that will be shown to 6th class students in the local area. This video included a tour of the school grounds, a message from our principal and some helpful facts about classes and option choice in first year.
A group of girls from our class went onto the local radio station “Near FM” to talk about our project and helped spread the awareness of anxiety and our message about “worriers to warriors” outside of our school and into the local community.
We invited the Minister for Education Mr. Richard Bruton in to speak to us about the 400 hours of the new Junior Cycle subject “well-being” being brought into schools in the near future and the impact he feels this will have on students. We made a presentation about our project to show to him and asked him lots of questions about the new “well-being” subject, how he thinks this will help students and many more. One of the most important pieces of information we gathered from this talk would be that they’re working on changes for the Leaving Cert curriculum and suggestions have been made about introducing the “Well-being” classes into Senior Cycle in the future. This is important as one of our main targets was to lessen anxiety within Senior Cycle years in our school, as it showed to be the most stressful year.
As a result of all our hard work, we got positive feedback from all the students, teachers and staff at our school. Our efforts proved to help lessen anxiety within our school walls. This meant so much to us to see a great improvement in the atmosphere within the school and in our fellow students. This was our goal from the very start and to see it follow through was a satisfying experience.
To further our awareness we attended the YSI Speak Out in the Mansion House on the 6th of March. We performed a dance to a script of two narrators, whose words described what’s happening within the mind of a person with anxiety. We strongly feel that we got our message across to the audience and helped spread awareness of different ways to cope with anxiety and show that you’re not alone. Our performance grasped the attention of a writer from the Irish Independent, Gene Kerrigan, who mentioned us in their article about the YSI Speak Out entitled ‘The Young, The Old, The Lies and The Truth’.
With everything we’ve achieved so far, we all feel it’s important that other schools take part in making changes in the area of mental health because each and every day this is becoming a bigger issue in our society. Our government has even recognised mental health issues as a disability so why aren’t we taking it as seriously as any other disability. Bringing “well-being” classes for Junior Cycle students is the first strong and real step we’ve taken in this country to help our younger generation with mental health issues. We need to keep growing on this issue.
In conclusion, we chose anxiety as it is something our whole class felt strongly about and now we’ve helped many students and even teachers overcome some anxious feelings they’ve been getting. We did this simply by giving them the tools and information to help lessen their anxiety. Who's to say you can’t do that too? If our generation isn’t taught how to deal with their anxiety now when our lives are supposed to be at our most stress free period and while our minds are still developing, how do you expect to send us out into this big world and not see us crack under pressure and then who knows how we’ll deal with it. A problem shared is a problem halved. Help half the problem of anxiety and we can move forward as a country.