BULLYING remains a cause of stress for Leaving Certificate students in Kerry with almost a third, mostly females, saying they have been bullied either online or at school, with a similar number saying they know someone who has been bullied.

A Kerry Mental Health Association survey of over 600 final year students in Kerry has found that more males than females admitted that they bullied others.

69% were worried about not fitting in with others and almost half said that browsing social media made no change to their self-esteem.

The primary aim of the online survey, to determine the impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of Leaving Certificate students, was confirmed when 99% said it had created stress for them and 37% reported that it had worsened their mental health significantly.

Aoife Hickey, Leaving Certificate Student at Presentation Secondary School, Tralee

The survey (at end of this page), which took place at the end of January, also examined the issue of bullying in secondary schools and looked at the role social media plays in their lives.

Kerry Mental Health Association received funding from Mental Health Ireland to carry out the research with the support of the ISSU | Irish Second-Level Students’ Union and Munster Technological University | MTU.

It’s 20 years since Kerry Mental Health Association last asked Leaving Certificate students in Kerry a series of questions about how their studies and various social factors impact their mental health and some of those questions were revisited in this survey.

The General Manager of Kerry Mental Health Association, John Drummey, said: “The world has changed considerably since 2001. Covid-19 has confirmed how reliant we are on technology as we depend on it for work, education, and general connectivity with others. Not as many respondents reported that alcoholism was a problem in the home compared to the 2001 survey. But some things haven’t changed for a third of teenagers, with bullying continuing to be a cause of stress. One person bullied is one person too many.”

There were 31 questions in total, with questions 3-18 focusing on the impact of Covid-19 on their mental health and 19-30 inclusive being similar to questions asked previously in a survey of Leaving Cert students in 2001.

More girls than boys completed the survey as was the case in 2001, but unlike the research from 20 years ago, the students were asked to indicate what gender they identified as.

Eight students said they identified as non-binary, one as intersex, three preferred not to say and 10 chose, but did not complete, the “Let me type” option on the survey.

John Drummey said that while the survey of Leaving Cert students provided a snapshot of how a global crisis has affected their mental health at an already stressful time in their lives, we need to focus on the positives.

“It’s important to check-in with each other, to continue to promote the many supports that available for young people and to make sure they and their families know how to access these supports,” he said.

If you are worried about someone’s behaviour or mental health you should speak to your GP, South Doc 1850 335 999, Kerry Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service 066 7104857, or Kerry General Hospital Accident & Emergency 066 7184000. If someone’s life is in imminent risk, call 112 or 999 for emergency help.

Details of other resources are available from Local Supports – Kerry Mental Health Association.