Schull Community College student wins mental health award

A student from Schull Community College, in West Cork, has been putting a smile on people’s faces with his project entitled ‘Free Happiness’. The project was awarded funding from O2 and Headstrong’s national ‘Think Big’ project which is about making a difference to young people’s mental health.

To date, Ethan Lawlor, 16 years has arranged a number of activities around his school that are designed to lift his fellow students’ spirits. Ethan has put motivational quotes on the doors of the classrooms and arranged for a representative from Headstrong, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health to address the senior classes in his school talking about young people’s mental health. He also arranged an information stand on youth mental health at a recent school open day.

The grand finale event takes place in the Schull Community College today, Wednesday 16th March, and involves students giving out chocolates, with music provided by a gorilla playing the drums and local bands. Ethan explains the motivation behind his initiative: “It is a bit of fun, designed to put a smile on everyone’s face. Taking time out to have a laugh together helps to deal with the stresses of day-to-day life. We have provided information about how to maintain a positive outlook, and by all having a laugh together we can ensure that people don’t let pressure get on top of them. I would like to thank O2 and Headstrong’s Think Big programme for their encouragement, and all of the supporters in the school especially Principal Tim O`Connor who have made these events possible. I would also like to thank Field’s Supervalu, Skibbereen and Hegarty’s Centra, Schull for providing the chocolates for today’s giveaway.”

Think Big is a programme designed by O2 and Headstrong, the national centre for youth mental health that enables young people to do new projects in their community that will help make a difference to young people’s mental health. Currently in Ireland, two out of every five young people report feeling depressed and one in four young people have said they would not talk to anyone if they had a problem with depression (source: Headstrong My World Pilot Study, March 2009*).

O2 has granted initial funding of €300 to help get Ethan’s Free Happiness project off the ground, along with a mobile phone (with €50 top-up), and a Think Big start-up pack. In addition, the project was assigned a mentor from O2, Nicola Mortimer, who has been assisting with advice and training to help bring the project to life.

The Think Big Programme is open to any young person, aged between 14 and 25, in the Republic of Ireland with an idea for a project that makes a difference to young people’s mental health. Project ideas can be submitted at any time for assessment through a website called . Young people can also join the Think Big Community on the website where they can discuss and share ideas about how to promote mental health among young people.

Nuala Smith, Youth Participation Officer, Headstrong said: ““Headstrong was established to change how Ireland thinks about and responds to the mental health of young people. Through our partnership with O2 and the Think Big campaign, we are encouraging young people to promote positive mental health for themselves and their peers, we can reduce the stigma that has existed in Ireland for years, and make it acceptable to experience emotional distress and to seek help when we need it”.

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