Counselling for Pupils, Mental Health / Happy Health Week

Guidance and counselling is an integral part of our school’s educational provision.

Guidance refers to a range of learning experiences provided in a developmental sequence designed to assist pupils to make choices about their lives and to make transitions consequent on these choices.  These choices may be categorized into three separate but very interlinked areas:

  • Personal/Social Guidance and Counselling
  • Educational Guidance and Counselling
  • Career/Vocational Guidance and Counselling

The activities may take place on an individual or group basis. They include:

  • career information provision,
  • assessment and self-assessment tools,
  • vocational counselling interviews,
  • career education programmes (to help individuals develop their self-awareness, opportunity awareness, and career management skills),
  • work search programmes,
  • transition services

Counselling is offered on a one to one basis and is generally short-term in nature. Counselling offers the opportunity to discuss in private any such issues or concerns which impact on academic performance or personal well-being.  Deciding to speak with a guidance counsellor can be a positive step towards making life better for the individual. Self-referral to the service is welcomed and encouraged.

Confidentiality Policy The Guidance & Counselling Service is a professional counselling service, which abides by a strict code of ethics and confidentiality policy as outlined by the Institute of Guidance Counsellors www.igc.ie Confidentiality is a central and integral part of the counselling process and is assured to each student who avails of the service.  It offers safety and privacy to those who choose to discuss personal and private concerns. Information given during these counselling sessions is held in strict confidence. No information written or verbal will be disclosed to a third party without the student’s permission. The issue of confidentiality is always discussed with students during the first session.

Limits to Confidentiality In exceptional circumstances the guidance counsellor may need to break confidentiality if they believe there is a real intent of serious harm or danger to either their student or another individual. In as far as is possible, in such cases, a full explanation will be given regarding the necessary procedures that may need to be taken.

Cycle Against Suicide 14

Cycle Against Suicide Fundraiser for Pieta House 2014


Annual Positive Mental Health Awareness Week

The promotion of mental health involves a broad range of issues, but it includes those strategies which: Contribute towards the prevention of mental illness and Promote and maintain an individual’s well-being Mental health promotion remains the most underdeveloped area of health promotion although there is an increasing recognition that “there is no health without mental health”. Positive mental health includes:

  • Self-esteem
  • The ability to solve problems and
  • The ability to adapt to mental stresses.

The need for positive mental health promotion is universal and relevant to all of us, none more so than in relation to young men (with suicide rates in Ireland ranking among the highest in Europe), which is why Positive Mental Health Awareness Week is one of the highlights of our school year. A number of initiatives take place in the school to promote positive emotional health and to highlight the link between physical and mental health. It is a whole-school initiative involving all staff and students. This year’s initiatives included:

  • Walk in my Shoes (The name Walk in My Shoes comes from a young man who said he wished his friends could walk in his shoes to understand his mental health difficulties. With this in mind, staff and students in the school were asked to wear funky or mismatching shoes for a day to raise awareness and much needed funds for mental health research)
  • The Green Ribbon Campaign (Changing Minds about Mental Health one Conversation at a Time)
  • Random Acts of Kindness & Lucky Dip (students and teachers did random acts of kindness to each other and then got to choose a gift from a lucky dip bag)
  • What Makes me Smile Campaign (students and teachers designed collages depicting what makes them happy)
  • Pieta House ‘Darkness into Light’ 5km run/walk in The Phoenix Park
  • Childwatch.ie talk about cybersafety and the dangers of cyber bullying and how it affects a young person’s mental health
  • Showing of the short film ‘The Butterfly Circus’ to all SPHE classes
  • Slow bicycle/static bicycle races to promote physical fitness
  • Football ‘keepy uppy’ competition
  • Joke of the Day and much much more………..

Useful Links


The legacy of Donal Walsh, #Livelife Foundation, comes to O’Connell Secondary School

Sixteen-year-old Donal Walsh came to national prominence in April 2013 when he spoke out about suicide among young people in an RTE television interview and, later, in an article which appeared in a national newspaper. At the time Donal was dying of cancer. He wanted others to see that death by suicide is never an answer. Sadly, Donal passed away on May 12th 2013. Before he died, Donal asked his parents to continue to spread the message of living life. As part of our school’s Annual Positive Mental Health Awareness Week, Fionnbar Walsh, Donal’s father, was recently invited to address all the pupils of O’Connell Secondary School.

Fionnbar told us his moving story with tears in his eyes but also with a tremendous sense of pride. It is a story of tribute to his beloved son who became a man as he journeyed along his difficult and heartbreakingly early terminal road. Members of our school community were privileged to get an insight into an extraordinary young man who, in coming to terms with his own death, became determined to open people’s eyes to the beauty that surrounds them in life.

Shortly before his death, Donal spoke quite openly and frankly about his cancer and how he had accepted the terminal outlook. Fionnbar discussed how Donal felt angry about the loss of young lives through suicide. Donal’s simple yet extremely thoughtful message that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem created a huge impact among our students. Donal’s own life was taken from him before he reached the age of seventeen. He had no choice in the matter and it grieved him that young people who were going through difficult times could not see any value in their own lives. Fionnbar reiterated Donal’s plea for all young people to find a door in their moments of darkness and to reach out for help. Young lives are too precious to be squandered. As Fionnbar indicated, Donal knew that his own light would soon be extinguished yet he wanted young people to reach out, talk and open that door to the light of hope, the light of life and the brightness of a new day.

Members of our school community were immensely touched by the visit of Fionnbar Walsh to the school and would like to thank Donal’s father, his mother Elma and his sister Jema for continuing to spread the message of living life. A Non-Uniform Day in the school raised €500- for the Donal Walsh #Livelife Foundation.

Fionnbar Walsh with pupils from O’Connell Secondary School
Pupil Paul Kinlan presenting a cheque for €500- to Fionnbar Walsh
Some of the O’Connell School participants in the Cycle Against Suicide
The Original Rude Boys perform in O’Connell School