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.

You may also like

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

Leave a comment