Walk in my Shoes Launches Ways to Wellbeing Initiative

David Predeville

As part of its Ways to Wellbeing initiative, Walk in My Shoes, the flagship awareness-raising campaign of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, recently launched an art exhibition showcasing projects that focused on building connections between nearly 300 school students in Dublin 8 and older people in their community,
with an aim of promoting positive mental health among both age groups. The Ways to Wellbeing project saw 279 students teaming up with an older person in their community to learn tips for living a mentally healthy life, how to build resilience and to hear important life lessons from the older people they were linked with. Using this information, the students then created engaging projects through different mediums to share these learnings.

During the initiative, some 30 projects, including posters, films, podcasts and presentations, were uploaded to the Walk in My Shoes’ School Portal. An exhibition of a selection of these projects was on display in the Art Space of St Patrick’s University Hospital in Dublin 8 for service users and staff of St Patrick’s, from 2 February to 16 March. Due to visiting restrictions at St Patrick’s, the exhibition was not open to the public, however, photos, videos and more are available on the Walk in my Shoes website and across their social media platforms.
Ways to Wellbeing is a collaboration between Walk in My Shoes and Smart D8, an initiative which aims to improve the health and wellbeing of citizens in Dublin 8 through partnership and innovation.
The objective of the Ways to Wellbeing project is to promote wellbeing by fostering local connections and kick-starting rewarding conversations between young and elderly people.
It launched its pilot phase on the International Day of Older Persons in October 2021, with students ranging from Junior Infants to Transition Year classes taking part. Participants were based in one secondary school and three primary schools in Dublin 8: Scoil Treasa Naofa,St Enda’s Primary School, Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal, Presentation Secondary School, Warrenmount. Speaking about the campaign, Amanda McArdle, Campaign Manager, Walk in My Shoes, said: “The past two years have been incredibly challenging for so many of us, with loneliness and isolation exacerbated by the pandemic restrictions. The Ways to Wellbeing project aimed to combat the isolation felt by young and old by encouraging young people to learn from their elders, while at the same time fostering connections in the community to promote positive mental health. The Ways to Wellbeing initiative saw a fantastic range of projects being uploaded to the Walk in My Shoes School Portal, and we were delighted to see all the incredible connections that were built between students and their elders in the community, as well as to see what students had learned about mental health and wellbeing.”
Students were encouraged to actively engage with older people in their area, such as by interviewing family members or writing letters to people in local nursing homes or day centres. For example, students from the Wellbeing Committee in Scoil Treasa Naofa connected with residents in the Bellvilla nursing home to build new relationships, bridge age gaps between younger and older generations, and have open discussions about wellbeing and resilience.
Speaking about the Ways to Wellbeing campaign and how it impacted students, Lorraine Spillane, a teacher from Scoil Treasa Naofa in Dublin 8, said: “Human connection is now more important than ever and this project presented such a fantastic opportunity for young and all in Dublin 8, and at a time when it was really needed. The Ways to Wellbeing project was a focal point of our Wellbeing Week, and throughout the week, our school garden became a daily haven for laughter, advice and wisdom.”
Teacher Jennifer Dolan from Scoil Treasa Naofa added: “The gentle wisdom of our guest left a lasting impression on myself and the children.
Her valuable life lessons are still regularly referenced in our classroom. The Walk in My Shoes project was an unmissable learning experience
for all who took part.” Established in 2012, Walk in My Shoes runs initiatives throughout the year to promote
positive mental health in schools and communities around Ireland, including the Mission Possible school achievement awards, the Frame of Mind short film competition, #MindYourSelfie
free eBooks and School Resources, and the Transition Year Programme.