Abbey Vocational School Attends New Mental Health Programme Launch

Donegal ETB’s Donegal Town school, the Abbey Vocational School (AVS), is among the first in Ireland to implement a new mental health programme, HEADSTRONG in association with Cycle Against Suicide, to address the stigma of suicide amongst young people. It’s Letterkenny school, Errigal College, will also implement this new programme.

AVS students attended the launch of the school programme in Dublin on 4 October last, joining other schools from across Ireland for the introduction of the pilot programme, which will be rolled out within the selected schools in the coming months.

Caroline Lafferty, CEO of Cycle Against Suicide adds: “We have worked with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to introduce HEADSTRONG to our schools here in Ireland as we believe that this programme is invaluable in helping younger people to be brave and speak up about mental health.

“It’s a powerful, evidence-based programme that has already won international awards, and with the help of our selected schools, we’re hoping that the pilot programme will be a huge success, with the aim of rolling out HEADSTRONG across all Irish secondary schools within the coming years. This is a core part of our mission in addressing mental health in younger people, which is currently at an alarming level in Ireland.”

At its core, HEADSTRONG works to reduce the painful stigma experienced by children and young people living with mental health problems and illnesses. It will teach students how to reduce stigma, become mental health champions in their schools, and the programme challenges students to examine the dangers of stereotypes and the harm created by stigma.

According to UNICEF’s latest report card on child well-being “Ireland has the fourth highest teen suicide rate in the EU/OECD region.” The report card warns that one in 10,000 Irish youth aged 15-19 will die by suicide. The report further shows that in younger teens, aged 11-15, “more than 22% report having experienced two or more psychological symptoms more than once a week.”

On Thursday 4 October, Cycle Against Suicide convened the first HEADSTRONG summit at the Honourable Society of the Kings Inns, Constitution Hill in Dublin which was attended by young people from 21 schools across the country. Summits are the anchor of HEADSTRONG. They educate and empower young people to become mental health champions and mobilises them to return to their schools and communities and engage and educate their peers to also become mental health champions, driving true change in the area of stigma.

To learn more about HEADSTRONG and Cycle Against Suicide’s programmes visit To find information about where you can get help for mental health issues, visit

Abbey Vocational School students attend Cycle Against Suicide’s Headstrong summit in Dublin.