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'We didn't sugarcoat it, it's the harsh reality': Monaghan teens win top award for mental health project

Students at Largy College in Clones chose mental health as their focus with the project Mend a Mind.

A GROUP OF SECONDARY school students in Monaghan have won the title of Young Social Innovators of the Year 2017.

These students were selected from over 7,000 who participated in the competition this year, with each group tasked with creating projects that will benefit wider society in some way.

Students at Largy College in Clones chose mental health as their focus with the project Mend a Mind – it’s a disorder not a decision.

The group aims to eliminate the stigma that surrounds mental illness in the community.

They’ve already won a few awards for their efforts, creating their own videos to challenge pre-conceived notions around mental health.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, 4th year student Laura Hamill said that her group came up with the project as it was something that was close to all of their hearts.

“We were really thinking about something that affected us as a year group,” she said. “And bullying had affected a lot of us in some ways.”

The group extensively uses social media to send out positive messages around mental health and speaking out using videos and pictures to tell these stories, and Hamill said the aim was to present these issues as they truly are:

It’s a really hidden illness. We wanted to bring attention to it, but we didn’t want to sugarcoat it, either. It was about showing the harsh reality, to shine a light on it.

From their first event that they broadcast on Facebook Live from Clones, the group’s popularity on social media spread.

Young Social Innovators of the Year 2017 Source: Jason Clarke Photography

One event saw the group enlist the help of a local dance teacher to bring a flashmob to Grafton Street in Dublin.

With this prize of Young Social Innovators of the Year, Mend a Mind will continue to go from strength to strength, said Hamill.

She added that the group planned to bring workshops into local primary and secondary schools within the next few weeks.

“We’ll definitely keep going,” she said. “There’s so many creative people in the class, that we have so many ways of getting the message out there.”

While Largy College students scooped the gold prize, the silver prize went to St Jospeh’s College Lucan for their No Limits project on social inclusion.

The bronze prize, meanwhile, went to students at Tullamore College, Co Offaly, for their Think Safety, Farm Safety project.

The winners were announced at a ceremony hosted by sponsors Ulster Bank in Dublin’s Convention Centre this afternoon, with Minister Simon Coveney in attendance.

Sister Stanislaus Kennedy and Rachel Collier, co-founders of Young Social Innovators, said the awards showcased “the very best that our young people have to offer”.

Read: ‘Deal with the Wheels’: These teenagers are leading the way on some of society’s most important issues

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Sean Murray

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