Supporting the health and wellbeing of our teenagers

Health & Wellbeing

Adolescence has been described as a time of rapid development when young people develop new skills and are faced with lots of new situations.  As a parent you will know that this presents both opportunities for your son/daughter to grow and develop as a person but that it all brings challenges and risks to their health and well-being.  Engaging in positive activities and programmes provides young people with the opportunity to forge relationships with adults and their peers while also developing the health behaviours that are crucial to their health and well-being and provide that strong foundation for their adult lives.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Foróige Health and Well Being programme contact Susan McLoughlin 086 6064291.

Useful Links

There are various issues at home that may impact on a young person’s well being including bereavement, parental separation, domestic abuse and parental drug or alcohol use. Please see additional specific links.


Mental Health

Youth mental health is very important. It affects everyone in society and the World Health Organisation has announced it as a global priority (WHO, 2015). It is quite common to see a mental health problem emerge for the first time during the late teenage years and mid-twenties. Life has changed dramatically in the past 20 years and young people have significantly more life stressors than previous generations due to the rapid pace of social, economic and technological developments. Whether you are a young person or are a parent, understanding how to deal with mental health problems early and effectively is going to be of a great benefit to you.

Young people aged 12- 25 years of age often have different needs to that of younger children and older adults. Donegal Youth Service provides a free and confidential one-to-one support service for young people aged 12-25 years called Teen Talk. This service is specifically designed to meet the developmental needs of young people and offer them support in a way which respects their needs. Young people experiencing difficulty in their life can avail of this support to help them cope with issues such as bullying, sexuality, family conflict, problems at school or friendship or relationship difficulties or anything else they may be struggling with.  Young people themselves or parents can call us directly and set up an appointment with one of our trained professional Teen Talk youth workers.  No problem is too small, we provide support for young people in crisis but we also take a preventative approach where possible and believe intervening with problems as soon as possible can prevent more serious problems in the future.

For more information or to refer a young person contact Louise Lynch, Teen Talk Coordinator on 074 91 29640 or add Teen Talk on WhatsApp at 085 2553816

Jigsaw Donegal provides a free and confidential support service for young people aged 15 – 25, with a drop-in centre on Pearse Road in Letterkenny. Jigsaw Donegal aims to make sure that young people’s voices are heard, and that they get the right support, where and when they need it.

Jigsaw offers a one-to-one support service for young people aged between 15 and 25. Jigsaw helps assess the young person’s mental health and help them understand what is going on. Jigsaw staff work with the young person to set goals around what they would like to be different in their life and then support them to reach those goals, through talking things out, problem solving, learning new skills and / or hooking them up with other services that might be able to help (e.g. education & training; youth services etc).

As a parent Jigsaw can inform you of how to support a young person yourself or how to help them access Jigsaw or other supports that they might need.

For more information   :


Useful Link:

Physical Health

Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders, concerns about weight, appearance and poor eating habits are very common in today’s society. Eating disorders are not just about eating too much or too little. Eating disorders affect the mind and the body. It is about food, body shape, body image, exercising, and dieting as well as other life factors. There are a number of eating disorders, of which anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are probably the types most people are familiar with. Young people may go through periods of binge eating or dieting. At times however, concerns about weight, appearance and inappropriate eating habits such as binge eating or dieting can become excessive and begin to affect a person’s health and well-being. This is the stage at which an eating disorder is said to exist.

Many young people experiencing an eating disorder do not seek help on their own. Indeed, many will try to minimise or deny their problem and hide their problem from family and friends. These conditions affect males and females and the impact of these conditions on a young person’s life can be quite serious and at times can even become life threatening. If it is identified and treated effectively early however, positive outcomes are more likely. As a parent of a child with a suspected or diagnosed eating disorder seek help and ongoing support. Talk to your local family doctor (GP) or health centre. Find out where they are located by visiting the online service finder. For more information about eating disorders the Bodywhys website is a great resource: and

(Adapted from Foroige Mental Health Resource)

For more information, please click on the links below:,-Diet-and-Health/Life-Stages.aspx

You should also check out: for more information on supporting your teenager’s physical health through diet and activity.

Sleep and Teens

Sleep is vital to your well-being, as important as the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat. It can even help you to eat better and manage the stress of being a teen.

Biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence — meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:00 pm.

Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. Most teens do not get enough sleep — one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.

Teens tend to have irregular sleep patterns across the week — they typically stay up late and sleep in late on the weekends, which can affect their biological clocks and hurt the quality of their sleep.

Many teens suffer from treatable sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, insomnia, restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea.

(Taken from:

Sexual Health

There are a number of links to websites and publications that will inform you about sexual health matters with regard to your teenager. Talking to you teenager about relationships and sex can be daunting however research conducted by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency outlines the following “our research tell us that good sex education at home and in school can increase the likelihood that teenagers will wait until they are 17 or older before they have sex and that they will use contraception when they do”.

This website encourages the delay of early sexual activity until young people have all the facts they need. The site provides information about healthy relationships, factual information on contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.

Link to: to order or download publications on the following:

Busybodies: For parents of 10-14 year olds. Used in 5th, 6th class in school or in 1st year. Contains basic information on puberty and human reproduction.

You Can Talk to Me: DVD and booklets – contains tips and advice for parents on talking to their children about relationships and sexual health.

Parents – Tips for Talking to Older Teenagers about Relationships and Sex: For parents of older adolescents. Contains information for parents on talking to their children about relationships and sex.

The FACTS DVD: For parents, teachers and youth workers providing sex education to older adolescents and young adults. Contains information on fertility, contraception, sexually transmitted infections and crisis pregnancy.

This site provides information, advice and support on sexual health.

A website informing young people on all aspects of health and sexual health.


Donegal Youth Service offer programmes with a focus on sexual health, tailored to the age range of the young people attending. The training covers topics such as puberty, media and body image, positive relationships including communication skills, rights and responsibilities in relationships, consent, socialising safely, information on contraception and sexually transmitted infections as well as sign –posting to specialised services when specific issues arise.

DYS are currently operating a Condom Card Scheme for young people aged 17-25, which is condom distribution programme, providing registered young people with a Condom Card, entitling them to free condoms. Typically, a young person applying for a C-Card will go through the following process: Registration, Issue, Review. Young people will meet with a trained youth worked and receive detailed information on condom use, current laws, consent, sexually transmitted infections etc. and will complete a registration process. On completion of registration, young people are issued with a pack of three condoms, lubricant and information leaflets. On the subsequent five visits, the young person can simply present the card to receive another pack. After six visits the young person must renew their registration, allowing for a further consultation with the youth worker, to ensure continued access to information and support.
For more information on the Sexual Health Awareness training or the Condom Card Scheme please contact Sheena Boyle-Laverty on 074 91 29630




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Safer Internet Day takes place next Tuesday, 7th February 2023. Sadly more than 1 in 4 young people in Ireland have experienced cyberbullying, yet only 60% of victims tell their parents. As teenagers and children spend more time on the internet, ensuring it's a safe space is ever more important. To encourage conversation about life online and help parents keep their children safe, I'd like to share a free resource created by It's a comprehensive guide which includes things like:
  • How to reduce the risks online
  • How to recognise cyber bullying and grooming
  • How to educate children on cyber safety
  • How to set up parental controls on devices
I thought it may be useful to share the link to the guide - - which you can include on your website ahead of Safer Internet Day, to help parents and children who may need some extra support. We've also put together some handy top tips you can use on your website: 10 tips to keep your children safe online
  1. Talk about it:Make time to chat about online risks and how to use the internet safelyas soon as they're old enough to go online. Encourage your children to speak to you about what they view online and empower them to act if they're worried about anything.
  2. Recognise the risks: Educate yourself about the potential dangers children could face online so  it’s easier to spot warning signs. Get to know what platforms your children use, and learn about dangers such as phishing, grooming and cyberbullying.
  3. Teach the do's and don'ts: Be clear about the non-negotiables.  For example, teach your child not to share personal details or photos with strangers and instruct them not to click on links to unknown websites or texts. Do encourage your child to question what they see and only accept friend requests from people they know.
  4. Spot the signs: Pay attention to your children's behaviour whilst on and off their devices. Being alert to changes in your child can help prevent problems from escalating. Some warning signs are withdrawing from friends or family, sleeping and eating problems or losing interest in previously loved hobbies or interests.
  5. Set boundaries:Let your children know what they can and can't do on the internet from the get-go. Agree on what devices they can use, when, and how long they can spend online. As they get older, explaining and negotiating boundaries may be more effective.
  6. Take 'parental' control: These ready-made boundaries put parents in control of what children can see online. They can be set up through your internet provider at device level to block specific websites and filter out inappropriate content.
  7. Be social media savvy:  The popularity of social media apps like TikTok and Snapchat makes it harder to keep track of what your child is accessing online.  Fortunately, each social media platform has its own privacy settings and safety tips for parents. Check them out before you let children have their own accounts.
  8. Protect from harm:Install antivirus software on family devices to minimise the risk of cyber attacks or scams. Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for extra security on your online accounts. This can also stop children from signing into services they're not allowed to use.
  9. Set a great example:  You're the greatest 'influencer' in your children's lives when they're young.  Limiting your time online, discussing dangers you've come across, and questioning what you view can help reinforce the rules you are setting for your children and, in turn, influence their online behaviour.
  10. Seek support:The more you learn about online dangers, the better equipped you'll be to handle them. There are some great resources like  webwise.ieinternetmatters.organd to help you recognise and reduce online dangers and seek advice if you think your child is experiencing cyberbullying or is at risk online.
        Short videos on the Importance of Play have recently launched which was a collaboration between North Central CFSN and Lifestart Services.   Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5 Volume 6

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

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