Mental Health Awareness Programme for Schools Supported by Belfast City Airport

Our Lady and St. Patrick’s College, Knock has completed a successful pilot programme to promote mental wellbeing amongst secondary school pupils – and now plans to roll out its resources to all schools in Northern Ireland, thanks to support from Belfast City Airport.

The initiative, named the ‘Floreo Project’, was piloted by teachers with Year 11 pupils of the school and consisted of several interactive knowledge sessions facilitated by teachers, followed by the production of activity sheets based on the key learnings of the workshops.

The school has now produced a workbook with plans to extend the programme, which received financial support from George Best Belfast City Airport’s Community Fund, for use in schools across Northern Ireland.

Michelle Hatfield, Director of Human Resources and Corporate Responsibility (CR) at Belfast City Airport, said:

“Mental wellbeing is a huge focus of the airport’s CR activity and our current charity partner is Inspire. With one in four adults, and one in nine children, estimated to experience mental health problems at some stage in their lives, it is something we want to raise awareness of and support where possible.

“It is so important to educate children from a young age on the signs and symptoms of mental health issues, as well as mindfulness techniques and other ways to promote mental wellbeing.

“We are delighted to support Our Lady and St. Patrick’s College with its successful pilot and are thrilled that the school’s learnings have been used to produce a brochure to be shared with pupils across the country.

“The workbooks, complete with advice from the pupils involved and lots of activities to encourage mental wellbeing, will be a fantastic tool for pupils throughout Northern Ireland to educate themselves on what is a very important and prevalent topic.”

The project was supported by the airport’s Community Fund, which has invested over £330,000 since its 2009 inception to projects that enhance and enrich the lives and knowledge of people across greater Belfast and North Down.

Nicola McCarry, a teacher who pioneered the project at Our Lady and St. Patrick’s College, said:

“We are thrilled at the outcome of our Floreo Project pilot programme here at school, and we believe that we now have an effective programme that will complement wider school and education initiatives which enhance the resilience and mental wellbeing of students across the province.

“The Floreo brochures serve as an introduction to resilience and mindfulness. The programme educates pupils on resilience; learning how changing words can change your mindset; recognizing and acknowledging negative feelings; and how to bounce back and recover from disappointments and mistakes.

“All are vital skills to learn, especially around the critical years of adolescence, when our pupils can be susceptible to pressure felt socially and at exam times.”

Dermot Mullan, Principal of Our Lady and St. Patrick’s College, Knock, said:

“Mental health education, particularly amongst young people, is so important. At Our Lady and St. Patrick’s College, we have always had a reputation for the pastoral care of students and we understand that teaching and learning is more than just our academic outcomes.

“Belfast City Airport also supports this view. The funding received not only helped us with the pilot, but enabled us to build the programme and produce the printed booklet, featuring the learnings and advice from our students in order to support and promote the mental wellbeing of other young adults.

“We will be contacting post primary schools in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks to explain the booklet and the benefits the programme has had on our pupils. After the launch, we will email the brochure to all post-primary schools in Northern Ireland free of charge, and they are available to be used, amended or adapted as schools see fit. This is a gift from George Best Belfast City Airport and Our Lady and St. Patrick’s College, Knock.”

To find out more about the brochures, and to get an e-copy sent to your school, you can contact Dermot at Our Lady and St. Patrick’s College on 02890 401184 or on dmullan577@knock.belfast.ni.sch.uk

The project was supported by the Belfast City Airport’s Community Fund, which offers support to local projects across the north Down and greater Belfast areas. Click here to find out more information about support that the Community Fund offers or to apply.