KYSS puts spot­light on well­be­ing

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - KINSALE - Áilín Quin­lan KIN­SALE YOUTH SUP­PORT SER­VICES

There are count­less youth groups in this coun­try, but Kin­sale Youth Sup­port Ser­vices has to be one of the most dy­namic cur­rently in op­er­a­tion.

Never one to let the grass grow un­der its feet, KYSS, as it’s known, re­cently moved to a new, larger premises, at Guard­well, Kin­sale.

The move fa­cil­i­tated, as Chair­per­son James O’Ma­hony ex­plains, the group’s ever-in­creas­ing range of ac­tiv­i­ties as well as a grow­ing de­mand for, and up­take of, its ser­vices for young peo­ple in Kin­sale and its hin­ter­land since KYSS was es­tab­lished nearly seven years ago:

“We needed more space be­cause we’re ex­pand­ing our ser­vices. We need an of­fice, meet­ing room, kitchen wait­ing room,” says James, who adds that the group is cur­rently in talks with the HSE to set up a range of men­tal health pro­grammes to in­crease aware­ness of men­tal health is­sues as part of a pro­gramme it ex­pects to launch in 2018.

In April, KYSS launched a Men­tal Health app in con­junc­tion with Ja­son Nel­li­gan and Bren­dan Fla­herty, two mul­ti­me­dia stu­dents from CIT.

The App, which was de­vel­oped by KYSS, is based on the group’s suc­cess­ful Mise ‘ My Life’ book­let al­lows users to have per­ma­nent ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion on men­tal health and the ser­vices avail­able to them. Free to down­load, the app is an emer­gency aid in a cri­sis — there is a di­rect link to the Sa­mar­i­tans helpline from the app, for ex­am­ple.

As of now, the group is in the midst of es­tab­lish­ing a num­ber of fo­cus groups, made up of par­ents, sec­ond and third-level stu­dents and peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­enced is­sues with men­tal health.

“The idea of the fo­cus groups is to dis­cuss the re­moval of the stigma sur­round­ing men­tal health and how to im­prove our own ser­vice, and to find out what im­pact KYSS has had on the com­mu­nity since its es­tab­lish­ment nearly seven years ago,” ex­plains James.

“The work of the fo­cus groups will be­gin work in Septem­ber or Oc­to­ber, talk­ing about men­tal health and dis­cussing ways of break­ing down stigma round men­tal health is­sues,” he said, adding that KYSS is also or­gan­is­ing a sur­vey of the group’s im­pact on the com­mu­nity at large.

Next Oc­to­ber, he ex­plains, KYSS will carry out street sur­veys in ar­eas such as Kin­sale, Bal­li­nadee, Ballinhas­sig, River­stick, Ballin­spit­tle, In­nis­han­non and Mi­nane Bridge, us­ing a ques­tion­naire to ask passers- by about the per­ceived im­pact of KYSS on lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

The group and its ac­tiv­i­ties are all driven by a highly com­mit­ted man­age­ment team of 25 peo­ple — lo­cal GPs, teach­ers, gar­dai, youth and com­mu­nity work­ers, for ex­am­ple — which care­fully plans its ac­tiv­i­ties:

“Ev­ery year we plan ahead what we will do for the next 12 months or so.

“Work­ing in the area of men­tal health is an on­go­ing process and it’s very much fo­cused on cre­at­ing aware­ness and break­ing down stigma,” says James, who says the group is bro­ken down into five sub­com­mit­tees, each of which have a re­spon­si­bil­ity for ar­eas such as gov­er­nance, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and fi­nance.

A spe­cific sub- com­mit­tee deals with re­fer­rals — this group as­sesses the cases of young peo­ple who come be­fore KYSS seek­ing help.

The re­fer­rals sub- com­mit­tee en­sures each young per­son is re­ferred to the proper health pro­fes­sional, — for ex­am­ple to the KYSS youth men­tal health worker Tom Walsh.

The level of sup­port from the com­mu­nity at large is enor­mously re­as­sur­ing, he says: “We have a num­ber of or­gan­i­sa­tions in Kin­sale and its sur­rounds, which run fundrais­ing events for KYSS.

“In April for ex­am­ple, Bal­ly­mar­tle GAA in River­stick or­gan­ised a 5k Fun Run which raised more than € 800. We re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the sup­port we get from the com­mu­nity.”

A vol­un­tary Strat­egy and Devel­op­ment Com­mit­tee over­sees the plan­ning of KYSS ac­tiv­i­ties such as planned sur­vey and fo­cus groups next au­tumn.

One of the most in­ter­est­ing as­pects of the grouop’s work, says James, is how its reach has steadily ex­tended beyond the 14- 25 year age group it cur­rently en­vis­aged: “The young peo­ple we deal with are of all ages. When we started, we tar­geted the 14-year-old to 25year-old group.

“How­ever, we have since dis­cov­ered that peo­ple of all ages can ben­e­fit from our help so we have had to widen our re­mit to in­clude peo­ple in their thir­ties. We’ve had to ex­pand our ser­vice and our fo­cus to fa­cil­i­tate the needs of these peo­ple.”

It goes to show, he points out, that whether you are 15 or 35 you can suf­fer prob­lems such as panic at­tacks, de­pres­sion and eat­ing dis­or­ders: “Men­tal health is­sues do not dis­crim­i­nate on the grounds of age. Men­tal health is a com­plex area. The most com­mon prob­lems we no­tice is de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.”

KYSS makes avail­able a low-cost coun­selling ser­vice for peo­ple who can­not af­ford coun­selling.

“We have a panel of coun­sel­lors set up, and a struc­ture un­der which, for ex­am­ple, a par­ent will pay a nom­i­nal fee and KYSS pays the rest.

“This is a scheme for peo­ple in fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties who need coun­selling.

“Our big em­pha­sis is on cre­at­ing fo­cus on men­tal health in the com­mu­nity and we are try­ing to get across the mes­sage that you are not alone. “

CIT stu­dents Ja­son Nel­li­gan and Bren­dan Fla­herty, who de­signed the KYSS app for Kin­sale Youth Sup­port Ser­vices.

At the open day for Kin­sale Youth Sup­port Ser­vices’ new of­fices were Tom Welch, Garda James O’Ma­hony, chair­man, and Robert Ac­ton, Kin­sale Lifeboat. Pic­ture: Dan Line­han

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