About Us

We are very proud to be Social Entrepreneur Ireland Awardees 2016-2017

The Challenge

Can you remember a time when you were a child and felt sad, lonely, or even frightened? Imagine that instead of keeping those feelings locked inside, you were encouraged to express these emotions. Can you imagine the difference it would have made to your life today? In Ireland today, many children do not have the tools to deal with or express their emotions, which can interfere with their healthy development and lead to a number of mental health challenges in their future. According to the RCSI, 1 in 6 young people aged 11-13 experience some kind of a mental health challenge, while high levels of anxiety affect up to 20% of children and young teenagers.

Our culture has, for the most part, not supported the healthy expression of emotional states, verbal or otherwise. The problem begins in childhood. Lacking positive role models for healthy expression, many children fail to develop emotional literacy and instead deal with feelings through oppression (silencing, institutionalisation, etc) and/or repression (self-censorship, poor communication skills, etc).

The effects of this are felt not only by children themselves, but also their families, others in their communities, and society as a whole. If not pre-empted, their challenges may continue and deepen into adulthood and can lead to, amongst other things: anxiety, depression, self-harm, even suicide. Mental ill-health carries major emotional, social and financial costs

The Idea

Our team of psychotherapists lead by Judith Ashton BA ITEC MFPhys IMTA (Co-Founder) found that early intervention was key to preventing childhood issues from spiralling. Sam Synnott (Co-Founder) discovered the full extent and impact of the issues children face when I became a parent. Together, we were convinced that if children were taught how to talk about their emotions at a very young age, the mental health of Ireland’s population could be vastly improved. Having observed similar international models, we founded Buddy Bench Ireland. The organisation has devised  programmes for schools which promote emotional resilience and introduces children and young people to a shared vocabulary for expressing emotions, through visual tools, learning and role play. As part of the programme we place a colourful Buddy  Bench in the schoolyard as a visual tool. Children are encouraged to sit together and ask one another how they are doing, and speak openly about their feelings in a positive and normalised way.

Buddy Bench Ireland's four age appropriate programmes are school-based, child-led and promotes good mental health, well-being, emotional resilience and friendship.

Providing all children and young people with a peer group-based, age-appropriate, social and emotional learning opportunity focused on well-being, self-awareness and the appropriate expression and reception of feelings, centred around the permanent visual reminder of a ‘Buddy Bench’.

The Impact

Buddy Bench Ireland has delivered the programme to 190+ schools and reached 22,000+ children to date, and are extending the programmes daily both North and South of Ireland.  With the support of Buddy Bench Ireland, a child who is fearful, anxious and confused about how they feel can communicate it. Their vision is a future where each child is supported to thrive throughout their school years in a community that prioritises their mental health.

Ultimate Goal

We are working alongside others to build a generation who will not only be able to express themselves with ease and compassion, but also help those around them, and those they care for in future, to do the same. Improved mental fitness will have associated benefits for the home environment, schools, workplaces, the health care system and more.

The Aim

Our aim is to deliver the Buddy Bench Aware programmes to 2020 schools by the year 2020!

email: hello@buddybench.ie

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