PRESS RELEASE: The prioritisation of mental health supports in primary schools will help ease strain on mental health services in the long-run

Published date: 
31 May 2023

Press Release

The prioritisation of mental health supports in primary schools will help ease strain on mental health services in the long-run – Children's Rights Alliance


Today (31.05.2023), the Minister for Education published new plans to introduce counselling supports for primary schools for the first time in Ireland.

The investment is a critical intervention that will see the rollout of a pilot of counselling supports within the education system initially across seven counties; Cavan, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Mayo, Monaghan and Tipperary. Each child will have access to eight one-to-one counselling sessions under the pilot which will come into effect in September for the 2023/24 school year.

Speaking in response to the announcement of the pilot, Children’s Rights Alliance Chief Executive Tanya Ward says:

“Anxiety and other mental health issues among young children has always been a present issue in the classroom but its prevalence has undoubtedly multiplied in recent years. We have heard time and time again about the detrimental impact long-standing issues like bullying, discrimination and stress with schoolwork can have on students. Prioritising early intervention is the difference between a problem and a crisis. Schools are often the central touchpoint for vulnerable children and an ideal environment to build wraparound supports for children. It is very positive to see this investment being made at primary school level, which will help to reduce the strain on our mental health services and potentially reduce waiting lists in the long-run.”

“Research carried out by the DCU Educational Disadvantage Centre shows a clear link between positive mental health and school attendance. There are many children currently struggling with anxiety and other mental health issues as a result of the pandemic, with some students not returning to school at all. With our mental health services for children under severe strain, it is essential that there are other supports introduced to reach children when they need help and before critical attention is required,” continued Tanya Ward.

The new pilot programme has been €5 million and will be rolled out to primary school children in seven counties across the country with a second strand to be announced in the coming weeks.

“Our teachers do an exceptional job when it comes to supporting their students, particularly during the testing times of the pandemic when mental health issues skyrocketed for children. However, teachers also require support in order to fulfil their role building positive learning environments and experiences for their students. This measure will bring in the necessary supports, skills and capacity to alleviate the pressure on education professionals as well as their students,” said Tanya Ward.

“The promotion of wellbeing should be at the forefront of reform of the education system and the need for the provision of mental health supports for children early in the school system is something that has been strongly advocated for by the Children’s Rights Alliance, as well as the Ombudsman for Children, the National Parents Council and St Patrick’s Mental Health Services. Many other European countries have adopted the approach of establishing counsellors and therapists in schools with great success. If we want to see similar results, the Department of Education will need to maintain a sustained engagement with the Department of Health and the HSE to nurture an integrated system of mental health care for children,” concluded Tanya Ward.




For more information/interviews contact: Emma Archbold, Campaigns and Communications Director, Children’s Rights Alliance at or 087 997 1410 

Notes to Editors: 

  • Tanya Ward, CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance is available for media interviews. 

About the Children’s Rights Alliance 
Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 145 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. Further information is available at: or on Twitter, @ChildRightsIRL