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Developing a Transition Pathway Education Support Programme for young people with Severe Mental Health Difficulties.
Start date: Sep 1, 2015, End date: Aug 31, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Serious mental illnesses are associated with reduced educational attainment (Kessler, Foster, Saunders, & Stang, 1995), in part due to their early age of onset and the gradual development of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia (Goulding, Chien, & Compton, 2010), which are often preceded by a decline in school performance (van Oel et al., 2002). The majority of young people with severe mental health disorders have experienced significant educational interruptions due to their illness. The onset of most psychiatric difficulties occurs between the ages of 12 and 24 (Kessler et al. 2005; Patel et al. 2007). This is a time when many young people are completing their education, making early career choices and establishing relationships (Patel et al. 2007). As teachers working with students who have severe mental health difficulties, we see firsthand the lack of educational supports available for our students. Many have been out of school for up to two years and feel they are unable to reintegrate. Linn Dara School in Dublin, Belfast Hospital School and Lycee Pierre Daguet, France, all face the same challenges while trying to address the educational needs of our students. Linn Dara School will coordinate and manage the project. Linn Dara School provides education to young people admitted to the Linn Dara Inpatient Unit and the Linn Dara Adolescent Day Programme in Dublin. Teachers work as members of the multidisciplinary teams. In late 2015, there will be 32 inpatient beds across three units and 18 day patient spaces in two further units which will be over 40% of national provision. Belfast Hospital School established a pilot project at the Westcourt Centre for young people with school based anxiety and mental health difficulties (TOPS Project). There have 26 young people on their roll. The purpose is to reintegrate young people back to school or further education. They work continuously with Specialist CAMHS teams of each enrolled student. Lycée Pierre Daguet in France has 105 students. Teachers work as part of a multidisciplinary team with mental health professionals. Students have severe mental health disorders and are aged between 15 and 22 years. The goal of the school is to maintain academic identity throughout the treatment of the mental illness. Helping them finding back a place in society and regaining confidence is their priority. All of our students require and deserve a specialised education programme to allow them to return to education while addressing their educational and medical needs. This does not exist for our students currently but it does exist internationally. Australia and New Zealand have specifically designed educational programmes for students who have severe mental health difficulties. While visiting and observing these already established programmes within the field of mental health education, each partner will work collaboratively to develop an individual educational programme suitable to meet the needs of our students which cannot be met in a mainstream setting. We will involve members of multidisciplinary teams, medical staff and other education staff in researching, exploring and examining the programmes already in place internationally. We will collaborate with this group as well as our students, parents, local schools and policy makers in shaping and devising our programmes. This results of this project will be disseminated through an international conference entitled 'The Educational Needs of Young People with Severe Mental Health Difficulties' where we will bring together key international stake holders in the field of education to discuss the issues surrounding the education of young people with severe mental health difficulties as well as the education programmes which have been developed by each of the partner. A project website will be developed and will outline the progress of the project as well as details about each educational programme. It is envisaged that this project will provide an opportunity for networking and support for staff working within the mental health sector through forums on the website as well as at the conference. The successful completion of this project and development of these educational programmes has the potential to change the lives of students who may have been forgotten in education previously. The project provides us with an opportunity to ensure policy dictates and provides for students with severe mental health difficulties.
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