Researchers at University of Limerick are seeking to tackle youth mental health through a ground-breaking, psychology education programme.
Research indicates that youth mental health is the leading health issue amongst young people worldwide, and that mental health has worsened because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As such, there is an urgent need to develop supports and resources that can inform youth as to how best to protect their mental health and wellbeing.
MY-Psychology or MY-Psy is a ground-breaking, psychology education programme with a focus on positive mental health and well-being promotion.
Funded by Science Foundation Ireland, MY-Psy is led by Dr Jennifer McMahon, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at University of Limerick, and Director of SCY-Lab (School, Child & Youth Mental Health and Well-Being Lab).
It is a collaborative partnership between the SCY-Lab, the Junior Health Sciences Academy (UL Hospitals Group, Mid-West Community Healthcare & University of Limerick) and the Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, bringing together research, education, and healthcare specialities.
Other key stakeholders include Jigsaw Limerick, the Limerick Youth Service, and teaching staff in the Limerick and Clare area.
MY-Psy is currently being rolled out in five schools in the Mid_west and the hope is that next year the programme will be scaled up and delivered to a broader number of schools.
Speaking at the launch event Dr Jennifer McMahon said: “We believe that MY-Psy connects cutting edge science with youth and teacher needs. Young people who complete the programme will understand the science of mental health and wellbeing and be able to translate that knowledge into the real world.
“MY-Psy links to the national wellbeing curriculum and can be an essential part of supporting students to successfully navigate the wonderful but sometimes difficult period of adolescence.”
MY-Psy has been created with youth stakeholders, who have informed the design of the 12-session programme for Transition Year students. The programme focuses on the science of managing social media, understanding emotions, and building relationships. It also includes sessions on changing health behaviours, and how to engage in research.
Students will consolidate their programme engagement by completing a peer-led well-being promotion project in their school, with the award of a Certificate in Leadership in Mental Health and Wellbeing Promotion from the Junior Health Sciences Academy, UL.
MY-Psy officially launched this Wednesday in UL, during Science Week 2022.
Speaking about MY-Psy, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society at Science Foundation Ireland, said: “MY-Psy is an exciting and innovative programme that introduces students to the importance of mental health and wellbeing promotion in an engaging and interactive way.
“MY-Psy aligns very well to Science Foundation Ireland’s strategic goals of promoting Science for Everyone, with its emphasis on active engagement and co-creation; and developing Science for Society, tackling the major societal challenge of mental health and wellbeing in youth.”
Donncha O’Treasaigh, Director of Schools with Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, said that: “Youth wellbeing is an area of growing concern and MY-Psy is a much-needed programme to inform and develop awareness of positive mental health.
“It has been co-designed with teachers and students in Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board schools ensuring it is relevant and engaging for young people. It also has a wider focus on developing 21st century skills in youth empowering youth as agents of change and equipping them with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to effect real change in their lives and the lives of others.”
Another key aim of the MY-Psy programme is to expose transition year students to psychological science and encourage them to view it as a potential career pathway.
Miriam McCarthy, Health Sciences Academy Manager, said: “Through MY-Psy young people will have insight into psychological science and research. We hope this will inspire many young people to explore and pursue career journeys in this area. This is especially exciting as the programme will reach a diverse range of students that may not normally be exposed to psychology as a career.”
Speaking on behalf of the young people involved in the programme, David Sheahan, a Transition Year student at Castletroy College and member of the MY-Psy Youth Advisory Panel said: “This type of programme can capture young people’s interest in learning more about science, by getting involved in research that takes the time to listen to and take on our ideas’.
The findings of this pilot programme will be available in Spring 2023 when students will be presented with their completion certificates in Mental Health and Wellbeing Leadership at a large in person event in UL.
MY-Psy is funded by Science Foundation Ireland. Science Week runs from November 13 – 20.