Monkstown pupils given lessons to beat stress

Year 12 pupils participating in a StressBEAT class at Monkstown Community School.
Year 12 pupils participating in a StressBEAT class at Monkstown Community School.

Staff from Monkstown Village Initiatives (MVI) and their YouthWorks project have developed stress management for schoolchildren.

The ‘Stress BEAT’ programme encourages pupils to take care of their mental health.

Recently, it was delivered at Monkstown Community School.

The six-week programme uses video clips, worksheets and group discussion and is based on cognitive behavioural therapy.

Each session explores how stress affects the body, emotions, actions and thoughts.

MVI says: “Some of these symptoms can be quite distressing if we don’t know why they are happening.

“Once the young people have an understanding of why our bodies react in this way, they are then taught simple skills such as ‘belly breathing’ to help manage the physical response.”

MVI staff have been facilitating the StressBEAT programme in Monkstown Community School since September 2010 as part of Learning for Life and Work.

Over the past four years, more than 500 pupils have attended the programme and a number have gone on to benefit from mentoring or counselling.

CBT practitioner Rosie Donnelly said: “Delivering the Stress BEAT programme in MCS has been quite the learning curve for all involved.

“We have had a lot of fun along the way and a number of challenges in adapting aspects of the material to the specific needs/abilities of individual classes.

“We have been particularly encouraged when pupils have shared stories of how they are beginning to use some of the skills outside of the sessions.”

“In May/June 2013, the StressBEAT programme was modified and delivered to Year seven pupils in Hollybank Primary School, in Monkstown, who were preparing for transfer to secondary education.”

In Northern Ireland, all post-primary schools currently have access to a counsellor through the Government’s Independent Counselling Service for Schools.

The service supports hundreds of young people each year.

MVI says: “Negative attitudes towards mental health persist and some young people are still reluctant to come forward when they are experiencing difficulties.

“More needs to be done, not just to address negative attitudes towards mental health, but also to promote positive mental health and wellbeing among this age group.”

Funding for the project was made available to MVI by the council and Monkstown Community Forum.

More information on the projects provided by Monkstown Village Initiatives can be found online at