KYSS puts spotlight on wellbeing
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