Jim Breen and Jessica

It was a pretty big deal for our school to apply to participate in the Student Leaders Congress, especially our student council. It was the first time Fingal Community College really put a strong emphasis on positive mental health and asking for help if you need it. Applying to be an Ambassador School encouraged teachers and the students to talk about these issues and to share Cycle Against Suicides’ message. Soon the idea of it being okay not to feel okay, and how it’s absolutely okay to ask for help, was circulating around the school in a positive light.

It was my first year as secretary for the student council when we got involved with Cycle Against Suicide (CAS) when I learned about the message. I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of since I myself struggled with my own mental health in the past. I knew that this would be a great opportunity to help a cause that I believed in. And if I managed to get through to at least one person, then it would be worth it.

A year later, our student council co-ordinator, Ms. Chaney, nominated me to be a Student Leader Ambassador for CAS. I had to write an essay on why I would be suited to be a Student Leader and a couple of weeks later, I found out that I was chosen to be one of 14 other student leaders nationally. I was absolutely ecstatic and couldn’t wait for our training/bonding day in Kippur, Wicklow in August.

It was amazing how quickly everyone bonded; as if we’d all been friends for years. The day went so quickly with us climbing up wooden poles and walls, jumping off high up platforms, orienteering, and abseiling. We cheered each other on if someone was scared and clapped when they made it or fell; either way we were depending on each other to get through all of these tasks.

Jim Breen, founder of CAS, wanted each one of us to prepare a presentation on why they wanted to be a part of CAS and what it means to them. Of course, we were all dreading that part of the evening, but once the first leader got up to say their bit, it was clear that this part would end up being the best part of the whole experience. The raw emotion in the room was so unapologetically powerful, that I can honestly say I’ve never felt that connected with a group of people before.

The next day involved some fire and shelter building along with a workshop on social entrepreneurship with Jim Breen which was mind blowing and very much an eye opener on how to be productive and work with other people.

When we were all getting on the bus to go home, we were all pretty emotional, but we knew this wasn’t a goodbye, but the start of a year long journey that we’ll all get to share together and spread the message; It’s okay not to feel okay, and it’s absolutely okay to ask for help.

Jessica 6th Yr