Belfast Telegraph

Minister defends counsellor cuts

Depressed or suicidal teens are just as likely to confide in the school caretaker as they are a guidance counsellor, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has claimed.

The former teacher defended Government cuts to guidance counsel services, insisting a whole-school approach can lead to early intervention and prevent the kind of tragedies seen over recent months.

"If somebody trusts a teacher and something has happened, and I know this myself from having taught in third level, they will go to the person with whom they feel most comfortable," Mr Quinn said.

"It could be the cleaner, it could be the maintenance man, or it could be the physical education or sports teacher."

Mr Quinn and junior minister responsible for mental health Kathleen Lynch have launched new national guidelines for preventing suicide in secondary schools.

The 10-point plan, which also promotes positive mental health among pupils, will be sent to every school in the country in the coming weeks.

Schools will be asked to evaluate their existing policies for identifying and supporting troubled teens, and adopt the Government guidelines.

The whole school community - including students, teachers, principals, health personnel, school managers and school visitors - will be asked to be vigilant for struggling pupils.

Mr Quinn insisted this would be more effective than employing a single guidance counsellor.

"Guidance counsellors provide guidance in relation to career options and career choices. But they might not necessarily be the first person in the school community to notice a change in the behaviour of a pupil that would warrant further scrutiny."


From Belfast Telegraph