On the 14th of January 2016, a group of 25 fifth-year students along with two teachers attended the Student Leaders' Congress in the RDS Dublin. It was a truly inspirational day where 4088 students from 144 schools across all 32 counties came together to spread the message to the 6.4 million people in Ireland; that it's okay not to be okay, and it's absolutely okay to ask for help. The main theme of the day was that together we are stronger, and that we should enjoy every minute of life. Louise McSharry opening the event and Maria Walsh (the 2014 Rose of Tralee) soon took over as MC to begin the Congress.
Throughout the day, we were introduced to a variety of strong, resilient people who have all been affected by troubles of their own. Firstly, the founder of Cycle Against Suicide Jim Breen came on and talked to us about the foundation of the organisation, that 'It's okay not to be okay, and it's absolutely okay to ask for help'. He travelled around the room, getting everyone involved and thinking about his message, and soon brought on one of the first guests who got involved with Cycle Against Suicide, Colm Hayes. One of Hayes' favourite sayings was that 'life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, life is about learning to dance in the rain'. His unique insights were effectively communicated through a series of jokes and interactive activities that got everyone laughing and loving! Next we were introduced to Gerry Fish, who took us by surprise with his loud personality, getting us all up and dancing and having a great time.
In between the different speakers, the schools' videos they had been made during the year were shown, and many of these schools were interviewed by the Student Leaders. It was great to hear what everyone else had been doing, as then we came up with many new ideas for projects that our school could undertake in the coming years. A few other faces that appeared throughout the day were Mark Pollock, Katie Cullinan, Niamh Briggs, Jessica Smith and Alan Hayes, who all shared their inspiring stories with us. All attendees of the congress were in absolute awe of their strength and resilience. Both Katie and Jessica performed beautiful songs for us, and we also got to hear an original song from a student of one of the schools which was truly exceptional. These people relayed their past difficulties to us and encouraged everyone to overcome any challenges they may have in their lives.
Overall the day was extremely motivating, heartening and stimulating as every single student and staff member left the RDS with lots of new ideas to promote positive mental health.