Buddy Bench Ireland
We believe the ‘whole-school’ approach is aspirational but cannot be scaled at the moment due to curricula overload and lack of specific social and emotional training.
It demands too much of the school, presenting challenges regarding timetabling, specialised teacher training and extra administration.
Rather than being the driver of a holistic approach, the school should be at the centre of a community effort.
Buddy Bench Ireland offers school-based child-led positive mental health programs – innovative, original and engaging – that promote emotional resilience and mental well being through supporting the core competencies of empathy, creativity, self-awareness and communication.
Each program comprises of:
- A physical Buddy Bench, installed in the school playground;
- A 45-60 minute workshop delivered by our facilitators in the classroom;
- An interactive, unique Activity Book for each child containing a comprehensive set of creative activities that the child can explore in their own time, at their own pace;
- Teacher’s Resource Pack that outlines the thinking and practice behind the program’s design and how it aligns with the Mental Health Foundation’s ‘7 Core Competencies’ and the HSE and Dept of Health’s ’15 Protective Factors’, which structure the Social Personal Health Education (SPHE) element of the primary school curriculum.
- Resource for parents
This is a universal early intervention for positive children’s mental health that seeks to promote a culture of self-expression, listening, tolerance, resilience, and mutual support.
Through supporting core competencies of empathy, creativity, mindfulness and communication, and promoting a child-led culture, we are empowering a generation of children to create a world where it’s OK – i.e. normal, natural, easy and fun – to express yourself.
We don’t overburden the school administration, nor do we add to teachers’ workload; on the contrary, our research is evidencing how we lighten teachers’ load by resourcing children to problem-solve socially at a peer-to-peer level.
Our external team of trained professionals deliver our children’s mental health programs.
It is easy for a school to timetable a single workshop per class per year.
The Buddy Bench remains on site as both a visual reminder of the program learning’s, and also a ‘safe space’ to spend time with friends and family and to develop a positive self-image
Children continue to work with our workbooks in class and at home. Parental engagement is proving to be a key factor in promoting positive children’s mental health.
Through our social media activity we engage parents and communities on the importance of supporting children to build their own resilience and emotional wellbeing.
 “The biggest challenges to implementing children’s mental health promotion programs in schools are: funding, timetabling, programme fidelity and achieving full participation from all stakeholders” [Spotlight. Well-Being: promoting mental health in schools. (2012) Oireachtas Library and Research Service]
 “Schools not only provide formal education, but are also places that foster personal development and well-being” [Zenner, C., Herrnleben-Kurz, S., & Walach, H. (2014). Mindfulness-based interventions in schools—a systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in psychology, 5(603), 1-20]
“Schools are increasingly considered to be important settings for children’s mental health promotion and intervention” [Merikangas, K. R., Nakamura, E. F., & Kessler, R. C. (2009). Epidemiology of mental disorders in children and adolescents. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 11(1), 7-20]
 “early intervention and prevention are critical in order to prevent a negative downward spiral of poor mental health and well-being into adolescence and adulthood” [Costello, E. J., Egger, H. L., & Angold, A. (2004). The Developmental Epidemiology of Anxiety Disorders. In T. H. Ollendick & J. S. March (Ed.), Phobic and anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: A clinician’s guide to effective psychosocial and pharmacological interventions (pp. 61). New York, NY: Oxford University Press]
 “These school-based children’s mental health interventions (e.g. mindfulness, social and emotional skills programmes) may be delivered as part of a universal preventative approach, which offers the potential to enhance the lives of all children” [Huppert, F. A., & So, T. T. (2013). Flourishing across Europe: Application of a new conceptual framework for defining well-being. Social Indicators Research, 110(3), 837-861]
 Ongoing evaluation with Centre for Mental Health and Community Research (www.cmhcr.eu) at Maynooth University
 “educating students about mental health requires specific skills and training” [Power, M., Cleary, D., Fitzpatrick, C. (2008). Mental Health Promotion in Irish Schools: A Selective Review.. Quoted in Spotlight. Well-Being: promoting mental health in schools. (2012) Oireachtas Library and Research Service]
 “At a practical level, one of the biggest challenges schools face in mental health promotion is organisational, as implementing these programmes requires timetabling and extra administration” [Power, M., Cleary, D., Fitzpatrick, C. (2008). Mental Health Promotion in Irish Schools: A Selective Review.. Quoted in Spotlight. Well-Being: promoting mental health in schools. (2012) Oireachtas Library and Research Service]
 “According to a consultation with teenagers on mental health, among ‘what helps’ was having a ‘safe space’ to spend time with friends and family and to develop a positive self-image” [Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(2009) What helps and what hurts]
 “a holistic perspective recognises health and well-being as arising from the interactive roles of the environment and the individual whereby the environment ranges from the immediate social setting (e.g. family and friends) to the broader societal level” [Kok, G., Schaalma, H., Ruiter, R. A., Van Empelen, P., & Brug, J. (2004) Intervention mapping: protocol for applying health psychology theory to prevention programmes. Journal of health psychology, 9(1), 85-98]