Almost 600 Transition Year students from 30 schools from around Cork county and city came together in the Radisson Blu, Little Ireland on May 1st for the first ever ‘Teen Talk’ health and wellbeing conference organised by Cork County Council, in association with their Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) and funded under Healthy Ireland.
MC for the event was former Rose of Tralee, Maria Walsh, who introduced the exciting line of up speakers including Blizzards front man and well-known mental health advocate, Niall ‘Bressie’ Beslin, who shared his personal story of dealing with panic attacks and depression, and learning to deal with these; ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ Dr. Pixie McKenna, who gave students a straight talking presentation on what they should concern themselves with in terms of general health; and Cork born Olympic race walker and star of RTE’s ‘Dancing with the Stars’, Rob Heffernan, who spoke about the benefits of a living a healthy lifestyle. Maria shared her own personal experiences of growing up and coming out as gay.
Supporting the event through Cork County Council’s three LCDCs was Healthy Ireland, a Government-led initiative funded under the Department of Health and overseen by POBAL who is responsible for managing the programme on behalf of the Government. The aim is to create an Irish society where everyone can enjoy physical and mental health, and where wellbeing is valued and supported at every level of society.
Cllr. Declan Hurley, Mayor of Cork County opened the event by saying “Cork County Council has a big role to play in protecting the health and wellbeing of Cork, in particular through our LCDCs. We are pleased to work with Healthy Ireland to teach people how to look after themselves better by listening and respecting their own minds and bodies. I would encourage you to start everyday with one positive thought – remember, every day is a new beginning, so take a deep breath and embrace the opportunity to start fresh, and enjoy life!”
Minister Jim Daly, Minister for Mental Health & Older People also addressed students and teachers at the event, saying “It is an honour to be the Minister for one of the most important aspects of today’s society – mental health. I would like to congratulate the organisers of this event for bringing it to Cork and engaging with so many young people today. I urge each and every one of you to look after yourselves, but also each other. Small steps now could make a big difference to someone, so make the effort to listen to each other, watch out for each other, and make time for each other.”
All students who attended the half day ‘Teen Talk’ event had the opportunity to learn more about the supports available to them at a number of information stands; and everyone was given a Green Ribbon to wear in support of ‘See Change’, a month long campaign being run by the national Mental Health Stigma Reduction Partnership, to encourage people in Ireland to end mental health stigma this May.
Photography By: Cathal Noonan