Offaly schools urged to embrace 'Amber Flag' mental health initiative

Charlie Flynn

Reporter:

Charlie Flynn

Offaly schools urged to embrace 'Amber Flag' mental health initiative

Primary and Secondary schools across Offaly are being urged this Autumn to embrace the 'Amber Flag' initiative for Pieta House, a nationwide suicide prevention charity. The Amber Flag initiative is a program that encourages schools, along with colleges, sports clubs and societies to work to bring about and promote a cultural shift in the way we think about mental health. It will empower and encourage pupils to be caring and considerate for one another.

In order to be awarded the Pieta House Amber Flag, schools and other applicant groups must host a mental health awareness event, a fundraiser, and a mental health initiative. The programme encourages team work and student contributions and works with school guidance counsellors to include a peer-support element. The Amber Flag is in its 5th year and over 450 flags have been awarded to date. Once a school is awarded the flag it is placed in a prominent position outside the school flying at full mast acknowledging the great achievement.

CEO of Pieta House, Brian Higgins clarified that "Our vision at Pieta House is a world where suicide, self-harm, and stigma have been replaced by hope, self-care, and acceptance. Challenging stigma is critical to us as an organisation.'

Higgins added that "Stigma is frequently what brings people to the doors of Pieta House, often adding to stresses on youth mental health. If we support schools and groups to create a stronger and more resilient environment, then we can build stronger and more resilient people”.

The Pieta House Amber Flag initiative will enable them to support schools and youth groups across Offaly in raising awareness of the stigmas which exist in their environments, and the stressors on the mental and emotional wellbeing of those within them.

If your school or group is interested in getting involved or want more information on the initiative, contact amberflag@pieta.ie.