AMH MensSana and Belfast Boys’ Model School

Judith Blair, from Belfast Boys’ Model School talks to Aisling Doherty from AMH MensSana about their recent Mental Health Awareness Training, funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

Aisling Doherty, Education Worker for AMH MensSana, talks about the growing relationship with Belfast Boys' Model School:

"Belfast Boys Model School, were one of the first schools to get in touch with the project following the initial invitation letter. Ms. Blair and the Vice Principal, Ms. Montgomery were very interested in the initial meeting to avail of the workshops offered by AMH MensSana and seemed to take a very proactive approach in the promotion of positive mental health for all students".

Aisling's interview with Judith Blair, from Belfast Boys' Model School:

Why do you think Mental Health training is so important?

“We feel as a school we are much more responsible for a child’s welfare. A school is much more than helping pupils gain GCSC’s and A-levels.  It’s about equipping young people to deal with any challenges that come their way. And one major challenge facing young people is mental health challenges. As teachers we see it in the classroom and the effects of it in the classroom from parents suffering mental ill-health at home. It is our responsibility to help these young people to deal with these issues, so they can be much more focused in the classroom which will be beneficial to them personally.”

What made you choose AMH MensSana for mental health services?

“We received a letter from Aisling from AMH MensSana introducing the service. We decided to invite Aisling into the school to hear more about the programme.  After this meeting we were very happy to go ahead and bring in sessions not just for our Year 10s, but also our senior boys with the offer of help from AMH MensSana on dealing with exam stress, and for our Year 12’s who were about to start their GCSE preparation.”

What was it about the programme that specifically attracted you to it?

“To be honest it was the personality behind it.  Aisling coming into the school and explaining the work of the programme in a very knowledgeable and professional way. And when we saw the presentation, and what the boys would see we were more than happy for Action Mental Health to come into our school. It’s not someone talking at the front of the class for 45 minutes switching the young people off.  Our boys were working in small groups. There was short and snappy sessions. Not lecture style which wouldn’t have suited the class. They were very hands on, interactive and very much moved with the pace of the class. So regardless of the ability of the class, regardless of how the boys were feeling that day, the session was always suited and tailored to the needs of the class.” 

Was the sessions able to adapt to your needs

“Very much so. Once we had been running with it for a few months for the Year 10’s, Year 12’s and senior boys, we realised that it could be suited for much younger classes. Aisling tailored the session for those younger Year 8’s coming into the school, covering subjects like ‘what is mental health’, ‘who is affected by mental health’ and ‘what can you do if someone in your family is experiencing poor mental health’. So it was targeting families and the boys, which was extremely important to us, and very good to reach out to the community also.”

How has the training impacted on the pupils of the school?

“After every session, there is an evaluation done with the boys, which indicated if the boys needed more help, whether they understood everything, or if they had any further questions. The feedback was with me by that afternoon, which meant our team of counsellors would be able to act on any information given.  For example some of the senior boys indicated, following a session on exam stress, that they were struggling with exam preparations.  The school were able to get the boys individual sessions with the counsellors.  We may not have known about that if it hadn’t been for the mental health sessions in the school.”

Have you noticed a change in attitudes towards mental health?

“I would be responsible for the Year 8’s class, and previously would have been hesitant about mentioning mental health because they may not know what it is.  However there is now a much more direct approach taken to it, I can use the terms and perhaps if I thought that there may be someone at home suffering from mental health problems, I can now address that very directly with the pupil because the stigma surrounding talking about it has gone, and they know there is help out there.”

Would you recommend the services of AMH MensSana and Together For You?

“Yes, absolutely I would recommend this support for other schools.”

Get support for your school

For further information or support contact AMH MensSana on 028 9032 9150 or email



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