Young people from across Donegal, Cavan, Leitrim, Monaghan and Sligo gathered in Letterkenny today for a unique event to bring their mental health needs to the fore.
The ‘Born to Change’ research event saw over 120 young people telling the HSE what they need from the mental health services in their area.
The motto of the day was ‘Let’s hear, let’s listen and let’s make changes’.
Letterkenny man Anthony Foy (18) is a firm believer in change. As a young man who experienced the mental health sector first hand, he is keen to encourage others to reach out for help and get the adequate support they need.
Growing up, Anthony has dealt with depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. He found support in LYFS (Letterkenny Youth & Family Service) and is now an inspirational advocate for mental health.
“Without LYFS, I wouldn’t be here doing this,” Anthony told Donegal Daily. “There is always someone you can talk to if there is something on your mind. That’s what got me out. Now I want to get more people to get out and talk about mental health.
“When you are young, most people don’t want to talk about their mental health because they think they’ll be judged in some way. But once you speak out it’s a load coming off your mind. If you hold it in for too long you’ll be holding it in for the rest of your life.”
Anthony’s first diagnoses came as a shock, he said, and he had mixed experiences attending CAMHS and the Child and Family Mental Health Service before finding his fit at LYFS.
“Whenever I first found out, I didn’t know what to do, where to go. It’s scary at the start, but once you start talking about it you feel great,” Anthony said.
Talking was Anthony’s key catalyst for change. “The more you talk about mental health, the more it feels like the weight is coming off your shoulders and I feel fresher and more alive,” he said.
He is part of the Born to Change Steering Committee on Thursday who was encouraging young people to get talking about the changes they want to see in the HSE and in their communities.
“We really want to make a change for young people because they matter,” Anthony said.
A key issue Anthony found at the research event was the lack of local services. Some young people from across Donegal have to travel to Letterkenny to attend counselling, which is not ideal every week.
“It’s a struggle for people who are trying to bring their life back to a good way. They can’t do it if there are no services to help them.”
He believed that the day would have a domino effect for all attendees as they turn their focus to mental health.
“Even if not much change happens, people here today will bring change with them to Cavan, Monaghan, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal and help somebody else.”
“We are all born to change. If you have the right help and support you can change, you can do anything in life and with your mental health you can go far,” Anthony said.
The ‘Born to Change’ research was carried out via a World Cafe method which invited young people to sit around a table and write their feedback to various questions on huge sheets of paper. The information was collected anonymously and will be used to inform the delivery and planning of mental health services in the future under the Service Reform Fund. For this reason, ‘Born to Change’ was one of the more important events in the CHO Area 1 in 2018.
The day was youth-led, with just 5 adults in the room for supervision purposes only. Representatives from community/voluntary and statutory agencies as well as HSE representatives attended workshops during the day.
Garry Glennon, Manager LYFS (Letterkenny Youth & Family Service) said he believed there should be a ‘no wrong door’ approach for all young people accessing mental health services.
“If a young person had an issue they should be able to into any place and get support for it in the community.”
“I believe in getting out from behind the desk, there are too many practitioners and professionals not just in mental health but across the board in youth provision who sit behind a desk. We need to meet young people where they are,” Garry said.
‘Born to Change’ was not only focused on informing change in HSE services, but those in schools, community groups, family resource centre and youth projects.
As a youth worker, Garry identified rural isolation, a lack of access to services and a lack of positive activities in local towns as contributing factors to mental health issues among young people in Donegal. He welcomed the ‘Born to Change’ approach as a collaborative event between the HSE and the community partners to take young people’s views on board and bring about actual change.
“We believe in the health service. They are passionate and caring people and we believe in the will to change,” Garry said.
For more information about the LYFS community project visit: https://www.facebook.com/Lyfscommunityproject/
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