Tullamore’s “Teen Aware” plans to expand nationwide[Offaly Independent, by Laura Ryder, 15/01/2013]

Teen Aware, the student-led Good Friday concert that also delivers a range of information and supports for teens, has plans to extend countrywide it was revealed on Monday.

The concept was hit on some two and half years ago by transition year students in Tullamore’s Sacred Heart School. The first concert, held in 2011 on the grounds of Charleville Castle, delivered both music and suicide awareness information. Last year’s concert was attended by twice as many people and also included road safety information. This year the concert will take place at the larger venue of Kilbeggan Racecourse, with bullying information and support added to the line-up.

The Teen Aware concept was launched on Monday night in the Bridge House Hotel to a crowd of approximately 70 people. Speaking at the event Teen Aware committee member Barry Flynn said organisers are hoping to strengthen the event’s message in the future by making it a national one.

“Our aim is to make Good Friday Teen Aware Day nationally,” he explained, adding that teen initiatives nationwide might have a better impact if they were all on the same day. The idea of taking Teen Aware national is one that’s supported by tragic teen Ciara Pugsley’s father, Mr Flynn said. He also said organisers have floated the idea of the event becoming a national one to the Department of Health, and are currently awaiting a response.

Speaking at the concept launch Bully 4u’s Jim Harding said research carried out by his organisation suggests up to 80 per cent of eight year olds have phones, while some 40 per cent have Facebook accounts. With approximately one in four school children a victim of bullying, and cyber bullying on the rise, Mr Harding said victims of bullying these days have “no escape”. Bully 4u is one of the organisations that will be at Kilbeggan Racecourse on Good Friday, with Mr Harding saying his organisation will be offering all the support and assistance they can.

HSE Suicide Prevention Officer Josephine Rigney also spoke briefly on the night, lending her support to the event and its expansion nationwide. Kildare County Council road safety officer Declan Keogh told those gathered that colleagues from Laois, Offaly and Westmeath will be joining him in Kilbeggan on Good Friday with simulators and beer googles to give teenagers a real idea of the effect alcohol has on drivers.

The Teen Aware concept was also supported on the night by Dublin teenager Kayleigh Cullinan, who was bullied and viciously beaten in an attack that was recorded and posted online. As a result Kayleigh lost 90 per cent sight in one eye, but has discovered her beautiful singing voice. Speaking to the Offaly Independent Kayleigh said she was “delighted to help out”.

Supporters gathered for the event also had the chance to see a video put together by Midland Drama Schools and Mixed Bag Media, which has been taken on by the ISPCC and will shortly be launched on the ISPCC website.