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DJ-ing and costume making: Cork teens' alternative approach to mental health

Skibb Smiles was one of a number of entrepreneurial youth projects showcased at the launch of ‘Initiate Now’ this week.

Skibb Scenes members
Skibb Scenes members
Image: Skibb Scenes/Facebook

Pop-up restaurants have become increasingly common, but it’s a pop-up cinema that has been attracting crowds in Cork.

‘Skibb Scenes: Cinema on Your Doorstep’, a venture run by 16 teenagers from the local town hall, was founded in Skibberreen at the start of 2013.

The project was initially intended to finish in December, but, given its success, has continued this year and extended to incorporate a mental health dimension called ‘Skibb Smiles: The Local Way to Make Your Day’.

As part of the initiative, a series of workshops – including DJ skills, film production, costume making and dance – will be held. A build-a-band workshop has already resulted in a song about mental health.

‘Constantly amazed’

Susan O’Regan, a development worker at the Skibberreen community and family resource centre, said she is “constantly amazed” by the young people involved in the project.

She noted that the initiative, which is funded by the Léargas Youth in Action scheme, has taught the participants many useful skills, not least “how to support peers”.

“They love it, they don’t want it to end … The sense of becoming involved in the community and doing something good for the community has really increased their confidence and self-esteem,” she said.

Susan noted that “there’s very little to do for a young person in a rural town”, saying it was particularly difficult for those in Skibbereen who don’t like sport as it’s the “biggest outlet down here”.

‘Massive Issue’

Shane O’Neill, 17, said that Skibb Scenes chose to focus on mental health this year as “it’s a massive issue with our society”.

“We saw an opportunity there and we just took it … In fairness to the whole community, they have got behind us big time,” Shane remarked.

He said that the workshops are unique as they are active and don’t involve being “sat down and made listen” to a speaker.

“There’s a massive push to create awareness around mental health … It’s life, I myself have been affected by it,” Shane said, adding that the group wanted to show young people going through a tough time that “there are other options out there and there are people willing to help you”.

He commented: “Once you see a youth project tackling this issue, it makes you stop and think.”

“In Skibbereen there is not much for us to do, at all. Big time, we’re lacking facilities … There are friendships made for life through this project,” Shane added.

Aside from the workshops, the €6,000 grant received from Léargas will be spent on advertising and merchandise such as wristbands with helplines for mental health support organisations.

Initiate Now

Skibb Smiles was one of several projects showcased at the launch of Initiate Now, a website promoting youth-led innovation in Cork and Waterford, this week.

Others included youth cafés, hair and beauty projects, local media and arts festival Global Fest, music blog Mellow Projects, and Makeshift Ensemble.

makeshift ensemble

Makeshift Ensemble (Pic: Cian Daly)

The latter is a four-year-old theatre company that holds a mini arts festival, ‘Quarter’, every three months. Through funding from Léargas, Makeshift are running a nine-month mentoring programme for three young film producers.

Eszter Nemethi, the group’s assistant director, said that such programmess are rare “particularly in theatre, but generally in the arts”.

“It’s going excitingly well, [the participants] will have a different kind of experience – they’ll have a portfolio,” Eszter noted.

She praised the Youth in Action scheme, saying it “allows a lot of people to do something that they are interested in and that they are passionate about … It provides you with a chance to try something which you wouldn’t really be able to do otherwise”.

Overcoming problems

Orna Joyce, a human rights lawyer based in Waterford, has been working with the National Youth Council and Comhairle na n’Óg to promote social entrepreneurship.

She encourages anyone under the age of 30 who is “involved in social innovation that has a trans-European effect, or is undertaken in partnership with young people in other EU countries” to apply for funding under ERASMUS+, a work experience programme that pairs young people with entrepreneurs throughout Europe.

Orna said that, as well as improving CVs, social innovation teaches young people “to see problems as mere temporary roadblocks they can overcome.”

Read: Youth leaders to debate global problems with Geldof and Huffington in Dublin

Watch: Struggling with negative thoughts? There’s an app – and animation series – that could help

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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