'Good mental-health is not achieved simply by offering ad hoc interventions'

It more likely to be achieved by working as a community to embed a culture of belonging, participation and inclusion, says Patsy McCaughey.

13th September, 2017
Patsy McCaughey, Coordinator of positive mental health provision and teacher

What's your name?

Patsy McCaughey

What position do you hold?

Coordinator of positive mental health provision and teacher.

What are your day to day responsibilities?

The role involves coordinating the many different activities that occur in the school relating to positive mental health. This can take many guises but it focuses on raising awareness around issues of mental-health and building capacity within the school community in identifying and managing those issues. Sometimes, that involves letting people know about the activities that are occurring in the school, and other times it is developing a new programme for building resilience in 1st years, or helping with awareness weeks.

That being said, in schools you have no idea what is going to happen in any one day- it is the joy of working with young people who are so full of energy and life! Luckily for me, I still get to teach Classical Studies and SPHE in the classroom.

What is your professional background?

I have been a teacher of Classical Studies, SPHE and History for many years but I took a career break a few years ago to become an educational psychologist. During that time, I developed a programme that sought to embed a culture of positive mental-health within the entire school community by including parents, school staff, and students. Since 2016, I have been the coordinator of positive mental-health at The High School, Dublin. Outside of school, I established epoché educational psychology and work privately with children and adolescents.

Tell me about yourself away from work?

A lot of my time away from school is spent working as an educational psychologist. Evenings, weekends and holidays are often spent meeting with clients or writing reports. When I am not doing that, watching and playing sports takes up my time. My interest in classical studies and history luckily means that I travel to Greece and Italy a lot.

Tell us something very few people know about you?

I wish I could understand jazz.

You are speaking at the 2017 Mental Health Summit. What are you speaking about?

I am outlining the holistic approach to positive mental-health that is being implemented in The High School, Dublin. The programme provides a manageable and achievable guide to embedding positive mental-health within the entire school community. It focuses on working with students, parents and staff in four areas: raising awareness and sharing information; building capacity; creating effective communication channels; and developing a sense of empowerment and belonging.

What major challenges do you see for mental health services in Ireland?

For me, the greatest challenge will be to develop the appropriate skills to allow adolescents be able to identify and manage the challenges that they will experience during their lifetime. Good mental-health is not achieved simply by offering ad hoc interventions, but rather is more likely to be achieved by working as a community to embed a culture of belonging, participation and inclusion.

Where would you like to see our mental health service in 10 years time?

Schools are the obvious place to work with children and adolescents in building their resilience and self-efficacy. Many principals and schools are craving guidance and direction on how to implement evidence-based and sustainable programmes but don’t know to whom to turn. In this vacuum, there are some companies offering talks and interventions that could, in fact, be detrimental to the students’ well-being. Instead of letting schools struggle with choosing the best strategy, I would like to see a coordinated nation-wide system put in place that develops the capacity of students, and also those adults working with them.

Patsy McCaughey is appearing at The 2nd National Mental Health Summit. The agenda and further details for this important national event, at the AVIVA Stadium on November 9th, is available at Mentalhealthsummit.ie.

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