Teen Talk with Louise Lynch

What is Teen Talk?

Teen Talk is a free and confidential one to one ‘listening ear’ service that is based in Letterkenny.  We mostly work with young people between the ages of 12 and 25.  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/relationship breakdown, or anything else they may be struggling with.  No problem is too small.  We work closely with CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), and Tusla.  We have one full time dedicated Teen Talk worker and six staff.  This year (to date) we have done 600+ one to one sessions with approximately 80 young people.

When did it begin?

One to one support work is a core part of professional youth work and training. We found that the approach we used was very effective in helping young people work through personal concerns and we found that more and more external services were referring young people in to us. It was then we decided to make Teen Talk an official service of Donegal Youth Service and it was launched in June 2014. Teen Talk is about listening to young people and offering them a guiding hand while they try to make sense of the challenges they face. Most of the work I focus on is around building self-esteem and confidence. It is incredible to see that when a young person takes a step back from the struggle in their life and focuses on strengthening their own foundations, they can face life again with increased resilience, new perspectives and an increased ability to cope. We work from a young person centered ethos, this means young people ultimately decide what they want to focus on, what they talk about, how they attend and how long they stay with us. Everybody wants to feel like they can cope but the reality is that modern life is very stressful. It’s hard to ask for help and many people, even adults, do not want to feel like they are a problem or that they can’t solve their own problems. In our experience, assisting young people to develop skills for problem-solving and managing their well-being is what works best young people. Many young people are struggling throughout Donegal and Ireland in general. We work closely with many statutory and voluntary services.

What’s it like for a young person coming to the service?

Teen Talk is unique because it is integrated within the organisation, all qualified youth workers in differing projects can be Teen Talk workers. This means we can match a worker to the young person’s interests and preferences. Young people who attend Teen Talk can also join other groups and projects that can help them make friends, learn new skills and build confidence. This is very important for keeping young people feeling connected.

Why do you do it?  What keeps you going?

I grew up in Donegal and I have seen the devastation caused by suicide first hand; when it happens it is a like a bomb – everyone who knew the person is impacted to some degree and we all think was there anything I could have done? These traumas are burned into our personal and community memory. Mental health effects everyone, the earlier that we can learn coping skills the better equipped we are to deal with stress and personal problems and youth is such a difficult phase of life I think it’s a good place to focus on. There is also the very important fact that most mental health conditions emerge in the mid teens to early adulthood (14 – 24 years). I just look around me at what is happening in my community and I want to help in whatever way I can, everyone has a role to play, no matter how big or small, the solution to problems like this lies within the community. We’re all humans and we all experience pain, it’s about time that we realise it’s okay to talk about it.

What’s your background?

I’ve been a professional youth worker for 10 years and I’ve trained in different areas of psychology, social sciences and youth work continuously for the past 15 years. I am still on that journey of learning and I am currently undertaking a PhD that is focusing on young people’s needs for mental health care and support in Ireland. The international research on what young people want in terms of mental health care and support has provided some excellent insights into how young people differ from older adults and children and what their unique life-stage needs are. Out of this we have been able to design the service from a strong evidence base and provide a service that is responsive and relevant to young people.

Donegal Youth Service are a youth organisation working to meet the needs of young people countywide. For more information about Teen Talk or any other DYS project you can contact (074) 91 29630   find them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or call in to 16-18 Port Road, Letterkenny.  DYS are a registered charity. CHY 15027.

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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 Switcher.ie. 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 - https://switcher.ie/broadband/guides/how-to-keep-your-children-safe-online/ - 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 cybersafekids.ie to help you recognise and reduce online dangers and seek advice if you think your child is experiencing cyberbullying or is at risk online.

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 (www.mychild.ie/books) and also on www.MyChild.ie  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 www.mychild.ie 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 www.mychild.ie

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from healthy.childhood@hse.ie

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