For Finn, the creator of #MyStoryYourStory, one thing is very clear; there is a substantial lack of appropriate and necessary mental health support in schools in Northern Ireland. Finn says that being a peacemaker means standing up for what you believe in, against injustice and for underserved communities. In Finn’s community, mental health support is gravely lacking. The most neglected areas in Northern Ireland has a suicide rate almost double the national average and these communities also have about three-and-a-half times the suicide rate compared to more privileged areas.
Finn explained that the dedication that comes from being a teacher and mentor to young people on the margins, led to his desire to start a peacemaking project. “My moment of obligation came after teaching English in Bogota, Colombia. It was an enriching and humbling experience of seeing how other sides of the world live. I enjoyed teaching English but the majority of my students had easy and accessible opportunities to higher levels of education. I felt a sense of moral obligation to enter informal education and work with those who haven’t started with a step ahead in life.”
Even though Finn is young, he says that starting #MyStoryYourStory needed to happen. “Young people are so powerful because they have immense potential and skill, which can so often be patronised and overlooked. Young people will flourish with opportunity and support.” #MyStoryYourStory is a peer mentoring pilot programme with young Syrian refugees. Finn hopes to run workshops, build on practical skills around counselling and mental health, and empower participants to become young leaders.
It’s no surprise that Finn advocates for people in need of support. He has been an exemplar of courage, compassion and collaboration for many years. “I have personal experience of being a primary mental health carer for a close member of my family. I also have experience teaching English, and having a background in Social Anthropology has taught me about cultural relativism and an interest in different cultures.” In the long-term, Finn hopes the young leaders his program targets become confident individuals who feel responsible and powerful in supporting themselves and those around them. “Collectively I hope to offer these young leaders the opportunity of becoming involved in the #MyStoryYourStory’s youth-led mental health campaign, find their voice and tell their stories.”