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08 Dec 2021

Durkan welcomes u-turn on mental health provision for primary schools

Mark H Durkan

Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan: "Counselling is an invaluable and meaningful road to recovery for people of all ages."

Foyle MLA, Mark H Durkan, has welcomed a pilot project announced by the Department for Education that will see counselling and mental health provision for primary school pupils.

The funding follows a u-turn made by the department last year on counselling after they had previously advised that funds could not be utilised to support a ‘small group of pupils or individuals'.

Mr Durkan, who is Chair of the All Party Group on Mental Health, was pleased that the project was being rolled out as the pandemic had only “served to heighten anxieties and exacerbate mental health issues for many children”.

The SDLP MLA said: “This pilot which will provide counselling and mental health services for children of primary school age is a welcome and necessary move.

“I’m glad the APG on Mental Health played a vital role in bringing this crucial provision forward.

“The waiting lists for children’s counselling were significant long before the pandemic hit, the funding gap has been evident in recent years.

“However, the impact of Covid-19 has only served to heighten anxieties and exacerbate mental health issues for many children.

“While it is important all children are supported and that mental health wellbeing is promoted within the school curriculum, there must be at least an element of recognition that for some the Covid pandemic will have had a more profound effect than others.

“For them, a safe space where they can talk openly about their mental health challenges without fear of judgement, can be a real gamechanger.

“Counselling is an invaluable and meaningful road to recovery for people of all ages. The earlier we can intervene to provide that service and the skills that come with it, the more effective it will be.

“Promoting mental health remains a momentous undertaking but the department in conjunction with the Department of Health, need to use everything in its arsenal to deliver better mental healthcare pathways.

“This pilot is a welcome provision but I would like to see an expansion and longer term initiative introduced.

“We need to embolden our children from an early age with the importance of speaking openly about mental health. That fight begins in our schools.”

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