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17 Aug 2022

County Derry pupil's success in mental health poetry competition

Miss Northern Ireland Anna Leitch supported the competition.

County Derry pupil's success in mental health poetry competition

Emma McGuinness (Eglinton Principal), Pelin Yildir (AWARE), Grace Higgins (Competition Winner), Shauna Eakin (Foyle Branch Manager, Danske Bank).

Eglinton Primary School is celebrating the success of one of its pupils in a province-wide poetry competition.

Grace Higgins, aged 10, came first in the ‘Express Yourself’ Children’s Mental Health Poetry competition from AWARE, the Derry-born depression charity for Northern Ireland, supported by Danske Bank. 

Now in its second year, the competition which was supported by Miss Northern Ireland, Anna Leitch, allows P6 and P7 pupils from across the North to express their thoughts and feelings through the creative medium of poetry.

Around 130 local schools participated in this year’s competition, and the top ten winning poems have been turned into a children’s book with mental health tips and advice from the team at AWARE. 

Kate Richardson, Communications Officer at AWARE, said: “The idea behind ‘Express Yourself’ is to allow children a voice to safely communicate what’s going on in their minds and get them talking about mental health.

"We want to normalise conversations about mental health in homes and classrooms across the country.

“It’s important that we recognise the challenges our children are facing. With 1 in 8 children in Northern Ireland experiencing emotional difficulties, catching these early on can significantly affect how that child progresses into their teenage years and adulthood.” 

The competition was funded by Danske Bank through their charity partnership with AWARE. Aisling Press, Managing Director of Personal Banking at Danske Bank, said: “As the biggest bank in Northern Ireland, we believe it’s our responsibility to help our society thrive and to work to address key issues we’re all facing. 

"We felt that supporting this year’s ‘Express Yourself’ competition was very important, especially as the past two years have been very difficult for our young people who have experienced such a huge disruption to their education and social lives.”

As a reward for her winning poem, Grace has received a free six-week mindfulness course for her class, delivered by AWARE, as well as book vouchers and other goodies.

Emma McGuinness, Principal at Eglinton Primary School, said the competition has been a fantastic way to start conversations about mental health with her pupils.

“We were delighted to hear about this year’s ‘Express Yourself poetry competition as last year, one of our Year 7 pupils was chosen as a top ten winner and had his fantastic poem published in a beautifully illustrated book. 

"It was fantastic that they were given the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings through poetry.  We are absolutely thrilled that Grace has been chosen as the overall winner.  

"She has developed into such a talented writer and gifted poet, and we are so delighted to be able to share in her success.,” she said.

The charity hopes to rerun the competition next year. If you are a primary school teacher and you would like to register your school’s interest for next year’s competition or if you would like a copy of the ‘Express Yourself’ book, please email poems@aware-ni.org. 

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