We are delighted to inform you we are currently uploading our children’s positive mental health program for parents of primary school children. As part of The Community Foundation Ireland Covid-19 Response Fund.
Parents, would you sit with your child and follow the five very simple short lessons plans with downloadable activities. For example Kin the fox knows about worry, she worries sometimes where her next meal will come from and that is ok. This module gives you as parents the resources to discover if your child is worrying about things they have not spoken to you about yet.
Lets us know and we will work even harder to get this ready in the next few weeks. Sam.
We have had the pleasure of working in Ireland’s first award winning evidence based children’s mental health initiative for schools since 2016 and we have seen a huge shift in how children are relating to each other. Our children are by nature Kind, Caring and Empathic. However throughout generations the children themselves have not “changed” dramatically but my, has their world. What is influencing them is, what they see, hear, have access to and very importantly the example their parents show. Little eyes and ears are always open.
We have found that Physical Bullying, getting shoved into the lockers, or physically hurt is not so evident and less subtle as Relational Bullying today. Both have negative effects and can make a child’s life very miserable indeed.
Is Relational Bullying?
Relational bullying is a different way of bullying because the actions are usually quiet and hidden from others and happen between friends.
Relational bullying can be:
Exclusion: When someone is left out of activities by their own friends and other social circles as well as outside school activities.
Gossip and Rumours: Information, stories, or details about a person that are spread around behind their back, online and offline equally.
Relational bullying can also
Mean letters or comments online.
Eye rolling or staring.
Withdrawing a friendship.
Threatening to end a friendship, to tell others their secrets, or to tell a boy/girl about a crush they have.
If you have daughters, does this sound familiar? Yet, I caution against believing this is a problem that only affects girls. Relational bullying touches boys too, and it effects them just as much.
Being left out, not picked for sports teams.
Mean letters or comments online
A boy who is friendly one day and mean the next is hurtful and confusing.
According to the NSPCC,
bullying remains the top problem for children aged 11 and under contacting them
and was the single biggest reason for boys
calling CHILDLINE (NSPCC, 2016). The Growing Up in Ireland study found that 40%
of children aged 9 reported being victims of bullying in the previous year. The
EU Kids Online study reported that 23% of children in Ireland aged 9 to 16
years have experienced some form of bullying, both online and offline.
The goal of relational bullying is to hurt a child’s self-esteem and damage their close relationships. Victims feel confused and rejected by their friends and other peers as well. But the effects of relational bullying go beyond the victim and can actually hurt the entire group of friends and the classroom.
Relational Bullying in
primary school is, thus, of critical concern to educational policy makers and
school leaders alike. Research would suggest that some schools experience more
bullying incidents than others and that schools vary widely in both their
approaches to and successes in dealing with the issue.
Our “ItsCool2BKind” programs are not a fix all anti-bullying solution. Understanding how multi layered bullying is, has led us in the direction to develop the different strands and outcomes of our programs.
interventions are focused on supporting children AFTER they have already developed a problem, or seek to address
specific issues such as bullying, our focus is on resourcing children before
they develop a problem, giving them tools to cope with everyday personal and
interpersonal problems. It is an early intervention method.
“We believe a child who practices Relational Bullying is very much in pain and with some guidance can learn to treat themselves with kindness before their behaviour towards others will improve.”
Some of the “ItsCool2BKind” Program Goals
For children to learn automatically how to treat themselves, with kindness and respect.
For children to learn automatically how to treat others, with kindness and respect.
That children may understand what it means to “walk a mile in my shoes “, and create understanding and tolerance of others.
For children will create a world where they not only value each other, but value themselves also.
The core message we aim to impart is that we are all in charge of ourselves – our actions, our thoughts and our deeds, and as such we must learn to take responsibility of these. To be accountable for our words and actions at a very early age.
And “ItsCool2bKind”, to have us deliver our program in your school email us at
Will you walk, run, hop or some crawl in your chosen sport event. Let’s come together as parents, grandparents, aunts, cousins and friends to walk together, have some fun while promoting and raising awareness of #childrensmentalhealth Building awareness for the importance of early intervention, in fact it being key to positive children’s mental health.
It is estimated that approximately 1 in 3 young people will have encountered some form of a mental disorder by the age of 13 (Cannon et al.,2013).
Our work with The Centre for Mental Health & Community Research in Maynooth University has enabled us to become Ireland’s first evidence based children’s mental health initiative. The cost of a child attending one of our workshops is €5, we have reached 50,000+ children to date and as a non-profit organisation its has been an enjoyable but tough road. Onward and upwards for September 2019.
There are three simple steps to follow: 1. Register for Sports Event Please register here with us 2. Sponsorship Cards We will post out your sponsorship cards when you fill in the form below. Please, whatever is raised please donate the amount here: https://www.ifundraise.ie/4648_buddy-bench-ireland.html
3. Buddy Bench Ireland T-Shirts €15 (Optional) We have chosen a light weigh neoteric fabric t-shirt in sapphire blue with our logo on the front and our hastag #childrensmentalhealth on the back. You can purchased them .
The 3rd annual ‘Light up the Night’ Kilkenny truck and tractor run took place this on New Year’s Eve, in a bid to highlight suicide awareness, mental health issues and the help and support available in the local areas, nationwide and beyond. Light Up The Night is a Suicide Awareness initiative set up by a group of people from North Kilkenny and surrounding areas.
“Our reasoning for starting this event was that our local community, which is a rural area, has been hit hard by Suicide in recent years.” Freddie Farrell explained. ” At all of the funerals and in the aftermath of such tragedies, a group of us talked about doing something to try create an awareness about the help available to people in our areas.” he added.
The Buddy Bench Program facilitators visited 5 local schools in March 2019 as funded by The Light Up The Night tractor run initiative to deliver their message of friendship, communication and emotional well-being to over 738 children from North County Kilkenny.
The Buddy Bench facilitators spoke to all the classes with specially tailored age appropriate programmes . The Junior and Senior Infants classes received “The Little Buddies” mental health program is where children become enthralled in our interactive story brought to life by our furry woodland creatures.
Kin the thoughtful fox.
Alfe the very emotional and caring squirrel.
Red the robin who just loves his nest.
Neeke the monkey who is very different and so very very proud of the fact.
Each animal represents a thought, or a feeling. It is an open ended story allowing free will of the children’s imagination. Friends help children feel safe and we all need kindness to grow.
First to fourth class received “The Buddy Bench Aware” exclusion, isolation or fears of being left out can create anxiety for any child, so we have built our Buddy Bench Aware Program around teaching self-awareness, friendship, empathy and self-expression, using the Buddy Bench as a visual tool.
The children explore the clues other children give away on the outside about how they feel on the inside. We appoint all the children in the class the job of “noticing” and responding with kindness.
During our interactive workshop we teach children to recognise and respond to their own feelings – different emotions feel different on the inside, physically
Each programme delivers a similar
message designed to teach children the importance of effective emotional
communication. The programme is accompanied by a physical bench which is left
in the school yard as a reminder to the
children that every child is important and needs to be noticed and included and
that we all need to ,”Look up, look around and look out for each other.”
The programmes were well received by
teachers and children alike. There was active participation by all
involved and they were all very grateful
to the Light Up The Night tractor run organisers for choosing their schools to
receive the Buddy Benches and The Buddy Bench Aware programmes.
The Buddy Bench Team were also delighted to have been sponsored by The Light Up The Night committee for the second year running to deliver their importance message of friendship and inclusion to the schools involved. Light Up The Night crew we thank you………..very much.
Hi Judith,Thanks for Wednesday. A great day had by all.
“On Wednesday 27th March, Judith from Buddy Bench Ireland visited us at St. Lachtain’s NS, Freshford. She conducted workshops with all the children from Junior Infants to Sixth Class. The children explored such topics as how to be a good friend and the importance of looking out for and including everybody. They learned about the importance of sharing your feelings and worries, and also that it’s good to cry! Through story and drama, they also explored the concept of resilience and being able to bounce back. It was a great day for all.The visit was kindly sponsored by the kindness of ‘Light up the Night’. A Buddy Bench was also presented to the school. We’d like to sincerely thank their committee and volunteers for including our school this year.” Kind regards,Brendan
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.
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
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.
don’t overburden the school administration, nor do we add to teachers’ workload; on the contrary, our
research is evidencing how we lighten
teachers’ loadby 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 weengage
parents and communities on the importance of supporting
children to build their own resilience and emotional wellbeing.
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]
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]
 “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
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
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]
We are increasingly talking about wellbeing in the workplace, and bringing an authentic quality to our work, being gentle with ourselves, and with others around us. Acts of kindness within a real-life working environment shows how kindness really does create a positive ripple that affects the whole workplace culture. Generosity and kindness propagates and spreads, and it has a huge impact on the overall positivity in the workplace, and on the employees’ sense of wellbeing. Doing good feeling good !
Be a Buddy Bench Warrior !
We have two strands of fundraising ideas for the workplace:
Kindness @ Work I Where your colleagues wear blue for a day and then donate a sum of their choice, please see poster to download. All monies received go towards a school that is struggling for various reasons.
Kindness @ Work II You choose a local school and raise funds in exactly the same way. It all depends on your timeframe and energy. Whichever you decide we are extremely grateful for your support. If you need any more information we are here to help.
Wear Something Blue: It’s your choice – jeans, jumper, club or county colours; wear a blue scarf, wear a blue bungee in your hair, you could even paint your face blue! Be a Buddy Bench Warrior!
Donate: All money raised goes towards to a Buddy Bench made with TLC by the Men’s Shed and the Buddy Bench “ItsCool2BKind” Program for a school, promoting friendship, kindness and emotional wellbeing for all. Doing good is feeling good!
Sign your workplace up by emailing email@example.com and get your Kindness @ Work CERTIFICATE
Buddy Bench is Ireland’s first award winning evidence based
children’s mental health initiative for primary school and the early year’s
We use a physical Buddy
Bench™ as a visual tool in conjunction with our Buddy Bench Aware programs to
help promote much needed lifelong coping skills and core competencies for emotional
stability and happiness in life. We promote positive mental well-being,
friendship, inclusion and encourage empathy among children.
motto is: “Look Up, Look Around and Look Out For Each Other”
We are now inviting expressions of interest to join
a panel of freelance facilitators from which we will draw upon for
our upcoming series of workshops 2019-2020. We are recruiting in counties
Cork, Limerick, Dublin, Donegal and Galway
freelance / contract – paid hourly or by the day
Cork, Limerick, Dublin, Donegal and Galway
Usually Monday – Fridays on a part-time basis excluding all school holidays
The successful candidate must have their own transport.
First and/or Second
contact with primary schools and early years settings.
Mapping out timetables for each individual
primary school and early setting.
Plan, develop and deliver innovative
workshops to the highest standard.
Be involved in the development of resources.
Collecting evaluation data from teachers and
child care workers.
The school playground can be a lonely place for a child if they haven’t got anyone to play with. But a special type of bench is helping pupils make friends and get people talking about bigger issues too.
One day, during her usual chat with her eight-year-old son about school, Tracey Cooney got an answer she didn’t expect.
“There was nobody to play with. Everyone was playing in their own little groups,” he confided.
She was surprised because he was usually outgoing and confident. But two of his friends had been sick that day, so they weren’t at playtime.
Cooney felt a little upset, but remembered something she had seen on social media and wondered if it could help children in his situation. It’s called a Buddy Bench.
The idea is simple – if a child feels lonely, they can go to the bench as a signal that they need someone to play with. Another child will see them, go and talk to them and include them in their games.
So Cooney asked other parents and the head teacher at Castlemartyr National School in Cork, Ireland, whether they would be interested in getting one – their answer was, “Yes.”
Also known as friendship benches, these pieces of playground furniture have been around for a while, in various countries.
But the people who make them in Ireland are trying to do something different with them.
“We use the bench as a reminder for children of things like communication, mutual support and opening up about feelings,” says Judith Ashton, a psychotherapist and co-founder of social enterprise Buddy Bench Ireland.
Her team delivers a day of tailored workshops about empathy, built around the arrival of the bench.
There are role-plays and children learn a song that reminds them to “look up, look around and look out for each other”.
It’s something that’s easy to forget, in an age when even young children can be engrossed in smartphones, Ashton says.
Apart from reducing social isolation and improving mental wellbeing, the hope is that the benches can tackle another problem found, to some degree, in most schools: bullying.
“I’ve been teaching 39 years,” says Jane Flannery, the principal at Castlemartyr National School.
“When I was a younger teacher we were more blasé about it and told people to get on with things. But I don’t think that’s good enough any more, we need to try something different.”
For her, Buddy Benches are that “something different”.
But do children actually use the bench? And are they worried about how it makes them look?
“They don’t see it as stigmatised,” says Sinead McGilloway, director of the Centre for Mental Health and Community Research at Maynooth University, who led a study of 117 pupils at three schools which have benches.
Forty per cent of the children she questioned said they had used the bench, and 90% said if they saw someone else sitting on it they would talk to them.
However, a small sample of parents did raise the concern of stigma.
And this is where the bigger aim of the project comes in, because the Buddy Bench team wants to tackle a problem that affects both young and old in Irish society: a reluctance to confront mental health.
“People spoke out of the corner of their mouth about it,” says Michelle O’Brien, one of the workshop leaders. Thinking back to her childhood, she says a mental health issue was seen as a fault in the family.
“Instead of the word depression ever being used, it was, ‘Their nerves are at ’em.’ It was a lot of factors, I think religion was a massive part of it.”
The Buddy Bench team aims to reach every pupil in Ireland, seeing this as an early intervention to tackle mental health problems across the generations.
Mental Health Stigma in Ireland: Studies and Statistics
40% of Irish people would conceal a mental health problem from family, friends and colleagues (The Green Ribbon Report, 2017)
Buddy Bench Ireland launches Little Buddies Early Years program for Courage and Resilience. Aimed at preschool children preparing to transition into primary school.
” I would like to thank you guys for our Buddy Bench and Robin we love them and we constantly remind the children to “LOOK UP, LOOK AROUND AND LOOK OUT FOR EACH OTHER” and have lots of chats about emotions and how we can deal with them. This is a brilliant programme and a great way to teach the children to have empathy, express their emotions and be kind to one another. Michelle was absolutely brilliant carrying out the workshop the children and us early years teachers loved it. ” Siobhán O’Brien Brandon Community Playgroup
Transitions are a
critical time for children’s growth and development. They provide an
opportunity to not just survive change, but to thrive and grow from change.
Facing such a challenge, with the right support behind them, children can
develop resilience and resources of strength and courage that will stay with
them their whole lives.
This insight is
what has created the collaboration between Kilkenny Local Community Development
Committee and Buddy Bench, one of Ireland’s fastest growing social enterprises
offering learning resources to children for emotional health and wellbeing.
This project, funded by Healthy Ireland, will see 24 Early Years settings in
Kilkenny City and County receive the Little Buddies Program for Courage and
Delivered by local
Psychotherapist Michelle O’Brien, the program uses storytelling, roleplaying
and creative activities based on Buddy Bench’s recently launched CarePack Sam Builds a Nest by Jeffrey Gormly:
University’s ongoing evaluation of Buddy Bench programs is showing us that what
children respond to are creative experiences that help them to integrate our
insights into their own story about who they are and how they relate to others,” said Jeffrey.
about being able to feel your inner strength when you need to go outside your
comfort zone and take on the challenges of growing into the world and finding
your place,” says Michelle. “Just like the Robin in the story has to stand on
the edge of the nest, gather his courage, and take off, so that he can fly high
and find his own nest!”
“Children can feel
challenged or overwhelmed by all kinds of experiences. Moving to big school, moving house, a change in family make up
or a bereavement, even just strong emotional feelings can make us feel as if we
are outside our comfort zone,” says Buddy Bench Co-founder Sam Synnott. “Seeing
my daughter go through that is what inspired me to start Buddy Bench, and bring
this kind of wisdom and safe support to all children.”
It’s this kind of
safety that is at the heart of the Buddy Bench mission, which has recently been
featured in the BBC World Hacks: People Fixing the World series on BBC
World Service. BBC Reporter Dougal Shaw says:
“I began to
understand why it feels like a mission. [Buddy Bench] see it as a way to help
Irish society as a whole, a kind of early intervention, to tackle the stigma
surrounding mental health.”
This mission is
what has enabled Buddy Bench to bring their programs to 40,000 children in over
260 schools and preschools throughout Ireland, a huge impact for a small social
enterprise based in Kilkenny. Not only that, but since they were founded in
2016 by Judith Ashton and Sam Synnott, Buddy Bench have been award winners with
Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, KBC Better Ireland, Google Adopt-a-Startup and
the National Startup Awards.
Sam Builds a Nest is illustrated by Ross Dillon of Cartoon Saloon
sister company Lighthouse Studios, and comes beautifully packaged in a
handprinted box. The CarePack is available at The Hub Thomastown, Designist
Dublin, and online at www.buddybench.ie.
For more info or to book a Little Buddies workshop for your Early Years setting, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0567702027
We are extending our reach 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.
Our vision is a future where each child is supported to thrive throughout their school years in a community that priorities their mental health.
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 society as a whole.
Our aim is to deliver the Buddy Bench Aware programmes to 2020 schools by the year 2020!