In a presentation yesterday to the Joint Committee on Education and Skills on relationships and sexuality education, the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) highlighted body image, relationships and sexuality as key areas of concern for young people and recommended a more integrated approach to tackling these issues.
The National Youth Council of Ireland is a membership-led umbrella organisation that represents and supports the interests of voluntary youth organisations working with 380,000 young people and uses its collective experience to act on issues that impact on young people.
Speaking at the hearing Rachael Treanor, Health Promotion Officer with the NYCI’s National Youth Health programme said: “We conducted a rapid mental health needs assessment among youth work organisations a number of years ago. The main issues identified as affecting the wellbeing of young people included body image, relationships and sexuality.
Earlier this year, NYCI conducted an assessment on young men’s health specifically, and again the key issues highlighted were relationships (73%), confidence (76%), sexuality (60%) and body image (53%). This research had helped to map out areas that need to be dealt with.
“In terms of how we go about this, we recommend that a broader approach to sexual health and wellbeing be implemented. Sexual health needs to be recognised across a spectrum where young people are supported to develop their knowledge regarding relationships and gender identity, through to the practical skills around using contraception and accessing information from safe and reliable sources.
“NYCI’s member organisations work with over 380,000 young people each year, so it is important to note that the youth work sector – working outside the formal school system – is uniquely placed to provide this kind of training and support,” added Ms Traenor.
The NYCI also recommended building on existing work around consent.
“Work in relation to consent is already happening across the youth work sector. It is important that this work is highlighted, recognised and continued and that work around the area of consent is not delivered in isolation.
“Consent needs to be part of a suite of training on sexual health and wellbeing. To ensure consistency of messaging for young people in relation to consent it is essential that relevant sectors are equipped with accurate and consistent information,” concluded Ms Treanor.
The NYCI outlined a number of recommendations in its submission to the committee, which is available here.
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