Speaker Series




The first speaker event, as part of our ‘An Education for Life’ student development programme, took place last Wednesday 16th October.

We welcomed Psychologist Joe O’Brien, from Spectrum Health in to the Academy to deliver a talk to our 5th and 6th year students titled: ’Strategies to Build and Maintain Wellbeing’.

Joe has an MSc in Health psychology, and has worked with teenagers and young people in the UK and Ireland. He runs an Instagram page (@headfirst0) and produces “The Head First Podcast” about evidence based psychology and mental health. Joe’s special interests in the field are how nutrition impacts mental health, social media, addiction and sleep. Joe also works with Spectrum Mental Health, who deliver both corporate and private mental health services.

An interesting concept discussed, which may have been something new to our students, was ‘Fear Setting’.

The main focus of fear setting is that the “worst case” scenarios are often never as bad as you think they might be. In the context of school, no single exam is going to have as big an impact as you might think. For example, even if you don’t get your first choice course, or you fail a certain exam, there are always things we can do to get where we want to be. Being able to focus on that mindset might be helpful when you’re feeling stressed, anxious or down over exams or career choices. Joe gave an example from his own life, which involved him filling out his CAO incorrectly, which led him to have to take a longer than expected route into his dream course of Phycology. While Joe did stress that our students should focus on filling in their CAO correctly, it is helpful to use this Fear Setting exercise to help manage stress from becoming overwhelming during the year.

See illustration below of how to practically use the ‘Fear Setting’ exercise:

Joe also set about defining ‘stress’ for our students, which is a word that can come up a lot as the Leaving Cert approaches. Here are a few of the key points discussed:

  • When stress can be good is when it helps you perform, whether that’s to stop

you procrastinating or to help you focus.

  • When stress can be bad is when it impacts your life like decreasing your ability to study, ability to sleep, impacts your social life or if it impacts your physical or mental wellbeing.
  • The basics of managing stress are sleeping well, eating well, socialising and having a good balance between academic and social life.

The final segment of the talk centred on lifestyle factors that can impact our mental health, including the following:

Social Media

The Fiji Study on disordered eating found that we change our thoughts on our own body image and eating behaviours when we’re exposed to the “perfect” body. There is also research to suggest the same in social media.

The “Disrupt the Feed” research found that putting positive and diverse role models in your social media feed had positive influences on teenage girls. It is theorized that it would have similar impacts regardless of gender – https://www.thefemalelead.com/research


Being on our phones late at night can suppress melatonin, which helps us get to sleep, and impact the quality of our sleep. It’s recommended that phones should be put away at least an hour before bed.


Having real world close relationships is very important for human health and wellbeing. Try to use social media as it was intended – to interact with your friends in person! Social media interaction doesn’t replicate real world interaction.