Foyle pupils address key issues as part of social innovation project

Sarah Gwynne from Foyle College 'Speaking Out' about the issue of 'mental health' at Belfast City Hall.
Sarah Gwynne from Foyle College 'Speaking Out' about the issue of 'mental health' at Belfast City Hall.

Pupils from Foyle College travelled to Belfast City Hall recently as part of a unique social innovation project.

Three schools from the North West - Foyle, St Mary’s and St Cecilia’s - took part in the Social Innovators programme aimed at making life better for people within their schools and communities.

Each school had to identify a social issue and carry out a research task into the problem and then devise a set of actions to help solve it.

They had to submit a 4000 word report on their issue and then go to Belfast City Hall where they took part in a regional ‘Speak Out’ on the issue.

Back in November a sub-committee of Foyle College’s middle school council had the opportunity to attend a Young Social Innovators event hosted at the City Hotel.

During the event the pupils were able to meet with other schools identifying social issues. Each school was asked to choose a social issue that they felt passionately about and create a poster on the topic.

The issue Foyle decided to consider was that of mental health. In particular, they focused on the mental health of adolescents because they felt that sometimes people overlook the issues that young people may face in their lives at home and at school.

To address this issue, the pupils actively researched areas of mental health such as; stress, self harm, depression, eating disorders and suicide.

They contacted and worked alongside mental health charities such as ZEST, AWARE and Newlife Counselling.

Furthermore, they interviewed the headmaster, pastoral VP, Health Education Coordinator and the school counsellor to find out a little more about the issue in the school.

Additionally, some pupils attended the ‘Cycle Against Suicide’ campaign in Dublin and Foyle College will be the launch school for its Londonderry leg in May as it makes its way around Ireland.

In school, the pupils took action by organising a Mental Health awareness week where they put together events running throughout each school day.

For example, Mental Health groups such as AWARE, ZEST and Newlife counselling ran workshops for pupils.

All the assemblies for the week had a focus on an element of mental health and were delivered by the middle school council and outside agencies/charities.

To show how physical health is intrinsically linked to mental health, the pupils promoted healthy lifestyles by organising fun activities such as Zumba dance, boxing fit, circuits and INSANITY workouts throughout the week allowing pupils to experience a range of different and yet enjoyable activities.

Furthermore, they organised their own ‘Cycle against Suicide’ event in school whereby they had pupils and staff cycling on Spin bikes. They also promoted healthy eating by bringing in an expert on nutrition to speak about issues such as eating disorders.

In doing so, the pupils aimed to have broken through the stigma of mental health in Foyle College allowing all their fellow pupils and friends to continue reaching their full potential.

The St Mary’s pupils chose underage drinking as their topic of interest, mainly due to the current trend in ‘nek nominations.’

They designed an advertising campaign to highlight the dangers and consequences of underage drinking with the help of Drinkthink and Misprint. Using staged photographs of the pupils they created a Billboard and posters.

They also created an awareness video, involving real life stories collected by pupils from people they know who suffered the consequences of underage drinking.

This has been uploaded onto youtube.

It’s hoped that the campaign will make teenagers think twice about giving into peer pressure and drinking alcohol.

The St Cecilia’s pupils focused on finding ways to help young people, girls in particular, be more positive about themselves. After researching some issues around self esteem and self image and talking to lots of different people, they decided to take a positive and constructive approach.  

Firstly, pupils designed an app that would offer a range of support to young girls who doubt themselves. For example, you could access your favourite happy songs, positive quotes or even jokes. 

They app is called ‘Team Teen- we’re on your side.’ The pupils are hoping to find someone to help them build the app. 

Secondly, they decided they could lead by example and are planning a ‘Positive Week’ later in the year to showcase lots of different ways to brighten your day and see yourself more positively.