In Focus
Apr 27, 2017

The Energy Driving One for Ireland’s Plan to Tackle the Youth Mental Health Crisis

Led by former and current Trinity students, May 1st will see businesses around Ireland engage in an exciting initiative to raise money for youth mental health.

Aisling CurtisSenior Editor
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Conor Clancy, director of One for Ireland, with golfer Shane Lowry, who is supporting the One for Ireland campaign.
One for Ireland

Next Monday, May 1st, shops and businesses across Ireland will engage in an exciting initiative to raise money for youth mental health. From Applegreens to Eurospar, retailers will add the option to donate €1 onto every bill. The ambitious goal held by One for Ireland, the organisation behind this day of fundraising, is to raise €1 million for youth mental health in Ireland.

Conor Clancy, the Director of One for Ireland, has extensive experience in youth mental health and welfare more broadly, having worked as the Welfare Officer for Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) last year. For young people in Ireland today, Clancy believes that one of the most urgent issues is mental health, with services stretched to the limit and many young people unable to access affordable support when they need it. Last year, One for Ireland identified homelessness as a key issue facing Irish people. But this year, engagement with youth organisations working with young people saw mental health emerge as a priority problem without a simple solution. “We worked a lot with the Irish Youth Foundation and organisations with close contact to what young people are experiencing on the ground”, Clancy explains, speaking to The University Times. “Mental health across the board is coming out as a priority for both young people themselves and for those working with them.” Concerning statistics such as an Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) study that found that one in five young people suffer with difficulties to their mental health, or the Samaritans finding that 37 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds consider themselves more likely to bottle things up, suggest that mental health in young people is at considerable risk.

As a fundraising model, this is not old-fashioned”, he says. “Your €1 goes to help someone

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The money raised by One for Ireland will go directly towards charities and non-profits involved in youth mental health across the country. And it’s not just some of the money – all of it will be poured into the various causes. Speaking to The University Times, Kevin Keane, fourth-year law student and a volunteer for One for Ireland, as well as incoming TCDSU President, explains that the support of various organisations, such as PayPal, has been invaluable in allowing them to push every last cent towards a good cause. “As a fundraising model, this is not old-fashioned”, he says. “Your €1 goes to help someone.” He considers it a charity funding model that people should move towards, given that more typical forms of fundraising, like bucket collecting, are less accountable. With One for Ireland’s venture, there is a clear paper trail and, Clancy explains too, accountability at the individual project level.

These individual projects range from Aware’s Life Skills programme to creating a centre for mental health for the travelling community, in conjunction with Exchange House. They are aimed at specific targets in specific regions, with the intent to promote youth mental health across the entire country. “A lot of charities One for Ireland is going to support target communities that wouldn’t avail of services or wouldn’t know services are available”, Keane explains. Selected by a panel of judges with extensive experience in mental health, such as the director of services at St Patrick’s Hospital, these projects will revitalise a flagging mental health service in Ireland. Ultimately, however, Keane warns that the government are the ones failing people, with fundraising initiatives like One for Ireland currently stoppering a gap that should not be there. “Charities should be able to focus on their work – helping people”, he says. Sustained change will only happen when the government wakes up, recognises the crisis overwhelming Irish mental health services, and starts funding projects like these properly.

One for Ireland will provide an essential funding injection to a number of invaluable services for mental health, and for other causes in the years to come

In the meantime, however, One for Ireland will provide an essential funding injection to a number of invaluable services for mental health, and for other causes in the years to come. After all, Clancy believes that One for Ireland can only continue to grow and generate more revenue and more excitement, seeing it as a national calendar event in the future. Much of the energy behind the movement comes from the fact that the founders and active members are all young themselves. Clancy considers it a “student and young-people-based campaign”, given that it emerged from conversation between college students and graduates over the best way to tackle the injustice and inequality they saw around them. The same drive to change Irish society has been present in other student-heavy campaigns this year, such as the movement against fees, the weight behind repeal the eighth, the student activism that led NUI Galway and Trinity to commit to divesting from fossil fuels. Irish students are recognising the deep-seated flaws in Irish society and stepping forward to do something about them.

Those behind One for Ireland don’t yet know what cause next year will bring or what exciting project they can throw their innovative fundraising behind. Their focus is on this weekend and their ambitious goal of €1 million for youth mental health. Clancy is currently on the hunt for volunteers, emphasising the importance of having young people involved in the implementation and promotion of the cause. Keane agrees that “young people predominantly helping young people” is an incredibly essential aspect of any youth-focused campaign, adding that One for Ireland can only truly build momentum with the help of a grassroots youth movement. Last year – their first year – saw them raise €170,000 for homeless families in Ireland. With more support and a wider net, this year will hopefully see them raise even more.

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