Speech for Minister Moloney, T.D. at the launch of Trinity College Dublin’s Student Mental Health Policy and Guidelines

I am delighted to be here today and I wish to thank Michael Gleeson for the kind invitation to officially launch Trinity College Dublin’s Student Mental Health Policy and Guidelines. As Minister for Disability and Mental Health, I welcome initiatives which are designed to heighten awareness and increase understanding of mental health issues.

This document will be a valuable and practical resource to the College in promoting the health and well being of students, providing information and advice to staff and students on a range of mental health issues.

When we hear the term mental health, many of us think of mental illness. However, mental health means much more than just the absence of mental illness. It is about physical and emotional well-being and having the strength, capacity and necessary coping skills to live a full and creative life.

Many factors affect the mental health of young people and while the changes in Irish society in recent years have brought considerable benefits to both individuals and the community, social problems continue to exist which affect young people and their families.

We are all aware of the pressures on young people such as bullying, emotional distress, addictions, peer and exam pressure. The stresses and pressures associated with every day life when combined with difficulties in coping with significant life events such as bereavement and interpersonal relationship problems can prove too much for some people. The recognition and application of early intervention for any young person experiencing mental health difficulties is the fundamental first step on the road to recovery.

Here at TCD you have acknowledged the importance of having early intervention mechanisms in place and I would like to commend you on the range of initiatives available to support students including; •the Unilink service which provides a support service to students experiencing difficulties managing day to day activities •the establishment of a peer support network and •Niteline, a confidential and anonymous telephone listening service

The increasing public awareness of mental illness is gradually breaking down the stigma which often surrounds mental illness. This enables people to talk about their feelings and emotional problems and to seek help without fear of being labelled a failure. The promotion of positive mental health is key to tackling the issue of stigma. I am pleased to say that significant progress has been made in the area of mental health promotion. During 2007, two mental health awareness campaigns were launched. In October, the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention’s Mental Health Awareness Campaign ‘Your Mental Health’ was launched with the aim of influencing public attitudes to mental health by promoting positive attitudes and greater understanding of mental health.

The National Office also developed a webpage entitled yourmentalhealth.ie which highlights things we can do to look after our mental health and look out for the people around us. The Webpage also gives an overview of some common mental health problems and lists some of the organisations and agencies that provide advice and help on mental health issues.

In December, the National Disability Authority launched its advertising campaign on ‘Challenging Attitudes to Mental Health’ which is designed to challenge negative perceptions about people with mental health problems.

We need to create a culture where people experiencing mental health difficulties are not afraid to seek help. Initiatives such as today’s launch are important in stepping closer to that goal and in tackling stigma.

Once again I wish to congratulate everybody involved in producing this Policy and Guidelines and wish you all positive health and well-being.