A €3m HeadStart fund announced for mental health projects in Ireland

Ten non-profit organisations providing vital youth mental health support services will be funded under Rethink Ireland’s HeadStart Fund.

At the awards announcement of the €3M HeadStart Fund in Dalymount Park are (Back L-R) Eileen McHugh, CEO, Hair Together; Tom Losey, CEO, Liquid Therapy; James Flanagan, FSR/Community Manager, Bohemian FC; Ian Power, CEO, SpunOut (Middle L-R) Anthony Brennan, CEO, Zurich Ireland; Deirdre Mortell, CEO, Rethink Ireland; Aisling Duffy, National Senior Project Manager, Mental Health Operations, HSE (Front L-R) Dr. Calem De Búrca, CEO, Childhood Matters; Maria Fleming, CEO, First Fortnight; Kay McCabe, National Youth Work Co-Ordinator, Involve; Ruadhán Ó Críodáin, Executive Director, ShoutOut. Pic: Marc O'Sullivan.

Funding provided by Rethink Ireland to combat need for mental health services sees 10 Irish non-profits receive critical funding under this new scheme. The organisations receiving funding offer early interventions, well-being and resilience programmes, and other mental health supports, to young people in Ireland.

The HeadStart Fund is a €3 million, three-year fund, created by Rethink Ireland in partnership with the Z Zurich Foundation and the HSE. It has been set up with the aim of supporting non-profits which equip young people with the skills they need to improve and maintain their mental health and well-being over time.

A survey of more than 2,000 young people by the Ombudsman for Children earlier this year found that almost 1 in 3 (28%) rated their mental health as “not good”. Considerably more girls (31%) also rated their mental health as “not good” compared to boys (16%). For those who identified as non-binary, another gender or preferred not to say, only 6% rated their mental health as “good”, while 61% state that their mental health is “not good”.

Announcing the awardees of The HeadStart Fund, Deirdre Mortell, CEO of Rethink Ireland said: “The crisis in youth mental health demands urgent action. We believe that non-profit organisations delivering community-led supports are a big part of the solution. All of our young people deserve access to mental health supports when and where they need it, and long before they are in a crisis situation. The ten awardees we’re announcing today are responding to this need, so that our young people can live fulfilled lives and can reach for their full potential.”

Awardees announced for The HeadStart Fund include:

  • Childhood Matters 'CHIPPS' project based in Co. Cork, which provides trauma-informed mental health services for children and young people in care.
  • The Bohemian Football Club 'Pride on the Pitch' provides a safe and inclusive space for LGBTQ+ young people in Dublin to participate in physical activity and feel comfortable discussing their mental health.
  • Liquid Therapy 'A Drop in the Ocean' project based in Co. Donegal, which provides a supported environment that enables young people to experience the physical and therapeutic benefits of the ocean.
  • Way 2 Work Ireland 'Leaving no young person behind' based in Dublin, is a wrap-around service promoting and supporting employability to help to improve and maintain the mental health of young people emerging from the Tusla care system as well as early school leavers facing employment challenges.
  • Involve 'No Shame' programme engages young people from the Traveller Community nationwide to break the shame and stigma of discussing mental health and increase their confidence and emotional resilience.

Anthony Brennan, CEO, Zurich Ireland said: “Our collaboration with Rethink Ireland on The HeadStart Fund, alongside the Z Zurich Foundation, is one way in which we and our local employees support meaningful social impact. As a leading Irish insurer, we aim to make a positive contribution to the mental health and wellbeing of young people across Ireland and we are looking forward to following the progress made by these ten organisations announced today.”

Aisling Duffy, National Mental Health Operations at the HSE said: “We are delighted to work with Rethink Ireland to deliver continued support through The HeadStart Fund to organisations who provide mental health supports to young people in Ireland. The HSE has, over a number of years, invested in ‘upstream’ youth mental health services for children and young people who do not need to access specialist mental health services. This includes a range of funded agencies in the community and voluntary sector that provide enhanced services for children and young people with mild to moderate mental health difficulties. The HSE is committed to supporting further positive change in this area and we look forward to involving more young people, including through the work of those awarded.”

Full list of the 10 HeadStart fund awardees 2023:

Childhood Matters [CHIPPS] – CHIPPS is a multidisciplinary mental health service designed with an attachment and developmental trauma focused approach to target the complex mental health challenges experienced by children exposed to early adverse experiences. The main areas of therapeutic provision include Play/Art Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Individual Psychotherapy and direct work with carers and foster carers.

Liquid Therapy CLG [A Drop in the Ocean] - A Drop in the Ocean is a program that blends beach workshops with ocean time through activities such as surfing, bodyboarding, and bodysurfing. The project will be delivered in three Donegal locations; Bundoran, Ballyshannon and Donegal town. Designed with psychologists and psychotherapists, the beach workshops aim to build a toolkit of resiliency in each young person, imparting practical advice that supports each individual in their everyday life, whilst facilitating social connection, physical activity and access to nature.

First Fortnight [Creative Therapy Services for YA] – First Fortnight offer creative therapy services, through the modalities of art, drama and music, for young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. These services are free of charge to support beneficiaries, and for this project, these services will be offered specifically to young people aged 15-24.

Hair Together CLG - The Hair Together programme is an early intervention programme tackling the social determinants of mental ill-health in young people. Over a 10-week programme, young people are supported by industry volunteers to develop practical hairdressing and barbering skills, alongside evidence-based wellbeing strategies from a psychotherapist to support them to manage mental health, social and behavioural issues. Over the course of the programme, young people are challenged to address limiting self-beliefs and develop their skills in teamwork, time management and self-expression, whilst providing them with a career pathway.

The Bohemian Football Club CLG [Pride on the Pitch] – Pride on the Pitch provides a safe and inclusive space for LGBTQ+ young people to participate in physical activity and access mental health resources, and challenges discrimination and harassment in the football community. This project delivers a 20-week football training and coaching programme that functions as a safe space for LGBTQI+ young people aged 15-24 to come together to enjoy the mental health and social benefits that football can bring.

Way2Work Ireland [Leaving no Young Person behind] - Way2Work is a wrap-around service promoting and supporting employability to help to improve and maintain the mental health of young people emerging from the Tusla care system and DEIS students. Their mentoring and training programmes support young people with entry into employment, work experience, internships and apprenticeships, as well as acquire new skills including coping mechanisms and mindfulness practices, leading to improved mental health outcomes.

ShoutOut [ShoutOut's Educational Programme] – ShoutOut’s free educational programme for secondary schools addresses the urgent need for LGBTQI+ inclusive education to promote resilience and positive mental health outcomes for LGBTQI+ young people aged 15-24. The programme is delivered through Youth Workshops, educational resources and support and training. Youth workshops are delivered in classrooms and cover LGBTQI+ terminology and identity, the impact of bullying, and offer access to support. Educational resources for students include posters, reading lists, and storytelling publications.

SpunOut [Spunout Academy] - Spunout Academy is Ireland's first mental health and emotional wellbeing e-learning platform that will provide a range of free online course curriculums to equip young people aged 16-24 with the tools to improve their emotional literacy, emotional regulation, and ability to engage with pathways to support. Course content will be youth-informed and directed to meet the needs of marginalised groups.

Tacú Ballinrobe Family Resource Centre CLG [SPACE for Young People] – The SPACE for Young People project is an early intervention and prevention model working with young people aged 15-24 who have a higher risk of mental illness and social isolation. Operating from the Ballinrobe Family Resource Centre (FRC), SPACE utilises social prescription to provide support on a one-to-one and group basis.

Involve CLG [No Shame Mental Health Programme for young people from the Traveller Community] - The No Shame Mental Health Programme engages members of the Traveller Community to break the shame and stigma of discussing mental health and increase their confidence and emotional resilience. The project has a multi-tiered approach, comprised of diverse, youth-led programmes that are reflective of the different interests of participants and designed to foster social and emotional learning.

About: Rethink Ireland

Rethink Ireland provides cash grants and business support to Ireland’s best social innovations. A social innovation is any idea or approach to addressing our most pressing social or environmental issues. Since Rethink Ireland’s first year of operations in 2016, it has created a €96 million social innovation fund by partnering with companies, trusts, foundations, families and individuals as well as Government to create funds tackling issues such as inequality and educational disadvantage. To date, Rethink Ireland has supported 394 social innovations, which have reached over 829,000 people, created 817 jobs and helped over 2,300 people into employment.

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