The Donegal Youth Council successfully put Sexual Health and Education into focus for local students at a special event called ‘Beyond the Birds and Bees’ last month.
Four students from each of Donegal’s 27 secondary schools were invited to attend the one day event on March 22nd in the Mount Errigal Hotel, with a total of 121 young people including 24 youth councillors in attendance.
Sexual Health and Education was voted as a key agenda item for the youth council by 99 young people at the Donegal Youth Council AGM in 2016.
When asked what they learned on the day that they didn’t know before 68% of participants stated that as a result of the day that they now know the types of STI’s and the different ways you can protect yourself.
Other topics they learned about included reinforcing what they already knew, the age of consent, local services, how to use a condom, safe relationships, impact of media and the importance of mental health in sexual health.
Participants were also asked if their opinion on sexual health and relationships had changed as a result of today’s talk. Some young people reported understanding the dangers around sex more and the need to be careful around online dating, and sending graphic images to others (17%).
On a more positive note, 40% of young people in attendance said they learned that sex can be healthy and good when it is consensual, with an emphasis on responsibility and respect and healthy relationships.
Donegal Youth Council Coordinator Carlyn Maguire shared “We recognised that health promotion with young people can be challenging, and that sexual health is a particularly sensitive subject. Therefore we invited professionals in this area to ensure that the information was both accurate, and age appropriate.”
She added “The Youth Council have been preparing for and working towards this event for 6 months. They received training from external facilitators and myself to ensure they were confident talking about the subject matter. We were delighted to see that the day had such a positive impact on the young people.”
There were 5 workshops over the day as well as a range of speakers, including Donegal Mayor Gerry McGonagle who opened the event. Facilitators on the day were: Donegal Youth Service staff Louise Lynch, Teen Talk Coordinator, Sinead Murray, BreakOUT Coordinator and Youth Workers Frankie McGreevey and Dominic McGlinchey who tackled the topics of relationships and social media in relation to sexual health and education.
The topic of mental health was presented by Bill Vaughan from Mental Health Ireland, Sonya Keeney from the GUM Clinic’s workshop covered everything about STIs, Chairperson of the Sexual Health Forum Donegal Dr Caroline Mason Mohan spoke about their work in the county and Connie McGilloway presented about the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU).
The aim of the day was to develop young people’s personal skills, provide accurate information to young people regarding their sexual health and to compliment learning that young people are receiving within their schools, Youth Reach Centres or any youth services that they engage with. The evaluations showed that 90% of young people would like to see these workshops in their schools, with the STI Clinic and Relationships ones topping the list.
Donegal Youth Council are funded by Donegal County Council, HSE Health Promotion and the Department of Children & Youth Affairs and is co-ordinated at local level by the Donegal Youth Service. For more information you can contact Donegal Youth Council Co-ordinator Carlyn Maguire on 074 91 29630 or email firstname.lastname@example.org