The main concourse of Clongowes Wood College SJ in County Kildare was awash with forty shades of amber on the morning of December 6 for the launch of the school’s application for the Amber Flag mental health initiative.
Clongowes already works to promote positive mental health and attaining this flag will signify their positive approach towards mental health awareness. The ‘Amber Flag’ project is similar to ‘Green Schools’ where a school must promote particular values. Pastoral Coordinator Ms Anne Marie Dolan says: “We have established an Amber Flag committee team comprising staff and student representatives to drive this initiative and are currently carrying out an audit of the existing activities that promote the cause and which will help identify three goals as the challenge for the year ahead”.
The Jesuit boarding school has confirmed the following two of three goals: A Mental Health Awareness Day to be held the first week back after Christmas and an Amber Flag Noticeboard, which may be seen outside the school’s Ethos Office.
It is recognised that positive mental health and well-being enables young people to lead a more fulfilling life. Home and family are recognised as the primary source of nurturing and support. However, mental health and well-being are everyone’s concern and involve the whole school community including parents/guardians and others involved in the day to day life. It is from this rationale that the whole world of ‘well being’ was born.
“A person’s mental health cannot be seen and there is still a significant stigma attached to discussing mental health problems,” says Ms Dolan. “We all have a brain and, therefore, a mental health and statistics tell us that one in four people experience a mental illness each year. What if we gave consideration to how we might make lifestyle choices, and create an environment and society which is conducive to good mental health?”
One of the key ingredients for promoting positive mental health is the need for the spiritual. It is no guarantee but it can help, according to Finola Kennedy who recently came to Clongowes as visiting speaker. During the morning’s event, the school paused in a moment of prayer, stopping to connect with the divine, and they prayed for all who battle with their mental health on a daily basis. They especially remembered all in the healthcare profession, voluntary and non-voluntary, who help those battling with mental health.
According to Ms Dolan, “We asked for God’s blessing and from his servants St Ignatius and Blessed John Sullivan for those on our Amber Flag project for the year ahead and on all who are and will be involved. May the work being done to further this cause and the work already done outside of the project continue to enable our students and staff to leading more fulfilling lives”.