Skerries teens using art to spread positive mental health message

by Sylvia Pownall
Promoting positive mental health: Artists from Skerries Community College with an artworks and teacher, Claire Loughran; the Deputy Mayor of Fingal, Grainne Maguire; and Skerries Youth Support Services chairperson, JP Browne

Young people in Skerries are sharing a powerful message through art with two inspirational murals launched to promote positive mental health.

Skerries Youth Support Services (SYSS) and Skerries Community College recently welcomed Deputy Mayor Cllr Grainne Maguire to launch the second annual ‘Positive Mental Health Promotional Artwork’.

The local community group and secondary school teamed up for the first time in 2017 to promote positive mental health and the popular initiative has returned this summer with the resulting artwork on display in Floraville, Strand Street.

The project focuses on the area of mental health and what this means from a young person’s perspective.

The colourful paintings highlight some of the challenges that young people face today and that, although it is sometimes forgotten or ignored, it is just as important to take care of our mental health as it is our physical health.

One artist from Skerries Community College, Gemma Keogh, told Dublin Gazette: “Our mural is dedicated to teens of the LGBT+ community who are learning to accept themselves for who they are.

“The person in the painting is a non-binary teenager waving the Pride flag proudly, whilst standing on a rock which represents their struggle to be where they are today.”

Speaking at the launch, local YSS chair JP Browne said: “We are proud to display the wonderful works of art produced and would like to thank the students for all of their hard work and creativity.

“We hope people will drop into Floraville and spend a few minutes taking in these fantastic pieces by young people on mental health.”

SYSS founding members recognised the need to support the town’s young people and their families and came together in 2015 to set up the group modelled on the highly-successful volunteer group in Kinsale (KYSS).

The organisation operates as a beacon for young people and their families in Skerries and surrounding areas by promoting information and services on positive wellbeing, including mental, physical and sexual health, and personal safety.

Since its launch in 2016, SYSS has produced an information booklet (Myself, My Life) and has circulated more than 15,000 copies in Skerries, Balbriggan, Rush and neighbouring towns.

The booklets offer information and service contacts relevant to a range of issues often encountered by teenagers and young people, such as depression, sexuality, and bullying.

The group has facilitated a number of public talks, a suicide awareness training programme, and is currently establishing a clinical youth support worker together with the North Dublin Drug and Alcohol Task Force.

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