Young Dublin poet Melissa Kavanagh discusses Ireland’s first Spoken Word team and the big issues they are tackling through poetry.
Spoken Word poetry is not the works of W.B Yeats read aloud. It is a budding youth movement peaking amongst Irish teens and young adults in a similar manner to the rebellious rock’n’roll phase of their parents. With less guitar solos and a focus more on what a person is saying, Spoken Word is becoming a major expressive form of dealing with the highs and lows young people are facing today.
“Poetry started for me as a hobby, something I enjoyed in my spare time” says Kavanagh. Now entering her second year of college she describes her hobby developing into something more. “I started writing poetry when I was 16, a Transition Year in secondary school. I'm now 19 and in DCU. There's been plenty of experiences along the way that have really influenced me both as a person and as a poet.” Kavanagh acknowledges the huge benefit having an outlet on poetry has had in confronting issues with sexuality and mental health.
“I always find myself struggling for the words to say when trying to talk about personal problems. It can be very hard trying to explain what in most cases you don’t even understand yourself. I faced that problem at a young age in opening up about being LGBT, when a lot of people around me made out that being so was something to be ashamed about.”
During the lead-up to the 2015 marriage referendum, a mass increase in youth political interest emerged. Kavanagh says she felt inspired to help, not only those wanting equal rights, but also the LGBT families who were “being slandered against.” Entitled “All Mothers And Fathers Matter” the poem was used by the YesEquality campaign as a promotional video and depicts a young Irish LGBT person’s views on the vote and outlines the variance in “family units”, with Kavanagh personally asking for a Yes vote so her “sexuality doesn’t make [her] less of a citizen”.
Kavanagh is also the captain of Team Ireland, the nation’s slam poetry team formed after a two year long search for Ireland’s next top poets. Representing the country alongside her are Ryan Mangan from Galway, Neasa McCormack from Clare and Iobhar Stokes from Limerick.
The team was put together by Stephen Murray, an award winning and published poet who makes his living giving slam poetry workshops in schools, helping students create their own slam poetry and getting rid of any misconceptions they may have about the art form. Over a two year period Stephen searched the country’s secondary schools for the best poetic talent.
Whittled down from six thousand applicants, the four Irish teens will be taking to the international stage this July in the biggest Spoken Word poetry event of the year: Brave New Voices. Based in the United States this competition attracts the best young poets from across the globe to battle it out over a weeklong event with the American network HBO covering the qualifying teams.
Together the team is striving to make a name for Irish youth poetry and encourage their fellow writers to take to the stage. In an interview with HeadStuff.org Kavanagh states “As a Spoken Word poet, I know that one voice can be enough. One voice can still be heard by hundreds. One voice can make a difference”. Teammate Mangan also values this belief, offering his poetry to the cause Darkness Into Light earlier this year.
The team is currently in full training mode as, in less than two weeks, they will be representing the country. Here are some of the poems they will be performing over in the States. Watch some of the poems the team will be bringing to the States on their YouTube channel.
The National Youth Council of Ireland want to hear from young people, aged 15-30 years, who want to be more involved in shaping society! On July 23rd, Young Voices will be heard at the Youth Empowerment for Political Participation – ‘Ideas to Action’ part 2 workshop.
The day will also be an opportunity for youth leaders/youth workers to share their views on the day. This is part of the current European Structured Dialogue process that is taking place across Europe, giving young people and youth organisations an opportunity to influence decisions affecting their lives.
The event will run from 12.00 - 4.00pm (all travel costs will be reimbursed) on July 23rd in Dublin City Centre.
The event will give young people an opportunity to prioritise some actions that have been proposed from the recommendations of the EU Youth Conference as to how we can empower young people and improve political participation.
Places are limited so please confirm that you will attend by replying to AuricaC@nyci.ie with the following info: Name; Age; Email address. Deadline: Friday July 10th
The feedback from this consultation will form the basis for the Irish input to the EU Youth Conference in September in Luxembourg. 3 Young people from this event will have an opportunity to be one of the young people to represent Ireland at the EU Youth Conference in Luxembourg.
Last week, the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) launched their new strategy to reduce suicide, Connecting for Life. This strategy, which will be in effect from 2015-2020, follows on from NOSP’s previous Reach Out strategy.
NOSP consulted with a wide range of stakeholders, including SpunOut.ie, in order to devise the strategy and received 272 submissions from individuals and organisations.
The intended outcomes of Connecting for Life are:
Some specific goals the strategy outlines as key contributors to these outcomes include:
The specified priority groups include young people, people with mental health problems, people with alcohol and drug problems, people bereaved by suicide, LGBT people, members of the Traveller communities, people who are homeless, healthcare professionals and prisoners.
At the launch, Minister Kathleen Lynch said “One size doesn’t fit all in mental health and the range of services reflects this. As part of the suicide strategy, we need to connect with ourselves, our families, our communities and the services that are on offer”.
The strategy also notes the link between challenging economic factors and suicidal behaviour.
It can be a very scary thing going in to a psychiatric hospital when you don't know what to expect.
It is likely your mind will think up the worst possible scenarios and bring up memories of all the horror stories you have ever heard and movies you have ever seen, the majority of which have it all wrong and completely warped. Not to mention the added pressure of stigma. While all hospitals vary and have their own way of doing things, having been in two, one private, the other public, I can say that they work very much the same.
On first arrival to the private hospital, I was met by the admissions office where I had to fill out a few forms (just a formality; stating my address, contact details of next of kin, signing insurance forms etc.) and from there, after a little wait, although considering how emotional and scared I was it felt like hours, I was met by a registrar nurse - a registrar is a psychiatrist in training who works alongside your assigned doctor.
There was quite a long interview with this registrar detailing all my past medical history and giving me the opportunity to ask any questions regarding my stay and planned course of treatment. This interview process is not one you have to do alone. I was so glad to have my mom there as the tears made it quite difficult to talk and the anxiety hindered my ability to think straight. Having someone who knew me almost as well as I knew myself meant she could answer when I couldn't.
Plus, it was nice to have a hand to hold. After a brief physical exam (nothing invasive) the registrar escorted my parents and I to the ward. Psychiatric hospitals tend to be busy and highindemand meaning beds are not always available on the particular ward you have been assigned to for the duration of your stay and so sometimes you will have no choice but to bunk in another ward until one comes free. In my case, the ward I was supposed to be on had no bed available. I spent my first night in another before being transferred the next morning.
All patients are given a bed in a bay area for the first few nights. This is basically a room with a number of beds located right across from the nurses’ station. It gives the ward nurses a chance to get to know you and see that you settle in alright. After a few nights there, you get assigned your own room or perhaps a twin room.
Also, all wards are segregated meaning males and females do not get assigned the same room. There is generally a common area with chairs and a telly where you can hang out and chat with other patients (unless your ward is female only, this area will not be segregated).
The nurses on duty will carry out a ward round every hour where they will check on every patient. In my experience, until you have met with your doctor you would be requested to stay on the ward. However, if you are not confined to the ward and have freedom to move around the hospital, there will probably be a book at the nurses’ station where you will be required to check in and out as you go. There can be a wide range of activities throughout the day like art, mindfulness and yoga. Some hospitals even have a music room where you can play the piano or bang on the drums.
If you are on medications, you will need to hand them up on arrival and the nurses will store them in the meds room. Generally meds are dispensed from this same room at meal times and then again right before people start heading for bed. Unlike the public hospital I stayed in where all patients ate meals in the one hall, in the private hospital each ward had its own canteen and meal times. A set menu would be pinned up in the morning and if nothing grabbed your fancy, you could go to the main hospital canteen and buy something from the buffet.
If you are a picky eater, like me, and only eat chicken for example, be sure to inform the nurses. They can have a member of the catering team talk to you about your options. Depending on your history, your doctor may also assign you a nutritionist. At meal times, the nurses tend to sit in a corner and take attendance. Don't fret like I did and think that they are only watching you and you alone. They're really not.
Then of course the treatment side of things comes into the picture. Every patient is assigned a doctor and once a week you get to meet this doctor on his/her rounds. It can be a long day, as many other patients will also be waiting to see him/her. You will always have the option to bring a family member to this meeting. If you have a problem any of the other days you can go to the ward nurses, your key nurse if you have been assigned one or ask to see one of the registrars.
There are many different treatment programmes available to patients at psychiatric hospitals, none of which I am educated enough on to recommend or advise. But on meeting with your doctor you will both agree on what the best course of action is. If you are a voluntary patient, as most are, meaning you admitted yourself to the hospital, you can essentially choose to discharge yourself whenever you want providing your doctor does not see it as a danger for yourself or others.
Everyone’s experience in a psychiatric hospital is different and although it can be difficult, do try and remember that no two patients are the same. Just because another person has been in hospital 12 weeks, does not mean you will and while one person may have a dislike to one particular nurse/doctor, don't be swayed. Decide for yourself based on your own experience. I am certainly not going to lie, going to a psychiatric hospital is very daunting but hopefully having read this, you might feel a little more at ease.
In April I started outdoor boot camp in Phoenix Park in Dublin with my friend Joanne. She had found an offer for classes online and we said we’d give it a go. I used to be fit in my teens and I had been thinking about my fitness and well being a lot over the last year or so. What I didn’t realise was just how much this commitment would help me.
The classes were scheduled to take place every Monday and Wednesday at 7 pm for 4 weeks, sunshine or rain they would be going ahead. So we started. I’m not going to lie, after the first class I thought I was going to be sick (and this was after a night out). My body had been pushed; my arms were heavy from trying to hold my weight off the ground and my legs burned from running.
I love walking and I have tried over the last few years to go for walks after college or work but this was very different and the next day in work was difficult. I was so stiff. My body ached and it reminded me of when I used to Irish dance as a child. My legs and mind were physically tired, and this was just after one hour of exercise. Even though I was so sore and drained, I kept thinking that at 23 years old, I should be able to do this.
I had doubts about whether I could keep going to the classes, but I did and after three weeks I began to notice little improvements. I had started to control my breathing when running, I had learned a wide range of exercises, I was using muscles and building strength that I hadn’t known about and I was being pushed to do all of this but at my own pace too. I didn’t care if I was beetroot red after the hour. I was feeling good and it was fun too. The classes are open to anyone and the instructor is tough but fair. He pushes everyone to do what they can, at their own pace and he always encourages us never to stop, to keep going.
I am now into my third month of classes and since starting boot camp I have started running too. Even if it is before work or in the evening, I try my best to get out into the air as much as I can. My work means I am in front of a computer for a lot of my day so getting outside is proving to be good for me. My clothes fit me better now and I’ve even received a compliment or two from friends who have noticed a change.
I know I have listed a few positives above but the most surprising and best change I have noticed has been the improvement to my mental health. Life throws curve balls and challenges to everyone, some can be anticipated and others are complete surprises but since my body and mind have been active in a different way I have noticed that I can switch off from work easier, I am sleeping better, I am getting through my days and I am dealing with the challenges of life with a slightly different approach.
I signed up and completed the Darkness in to Light run with my friend, Dympna. Something I would never have thought of doing a year ago, and it was amazing. I completed the Women’s Mini Marathon with my cousins and some of my aunties too. This again is something I would never have thought of doing and it was such a fun and a challenging day. A better way of spending a Bank Holiday Monday, raising money for charity, being outside with family, instead of dying from a horrible hangover in bed!
I don’t have a main goal in my fitness journey. I don’t have a target weight or speed that I want to be able to run. I have an improved mind frame now and I am getting to an outlook on life that I have always wanted to have. I just have to maintain this. Signing up to boot camp has been the best decision and money that I have spent this year and I would encourage people to get up and get active if they are thinking about it.
If it is the gym, dance lessons or swimming, if you are thinking about it, do it! You could start a class or get a few friends together once a week for a game of football even. I was surprised at the large amount of people who turned up to my first boot camp class. I didn’t really think that there would be many people who wanted to get fit or who had been thinking of getting fit like me! How wrong was I!
I know that I have big decisions to make for my life in the coming years and sometimes I don’t want to think about those choices, but I know that if my mind is strong, happy and healthy I’ll be able to make them. Boot camp has helped my mental health and I really hope I can keep it up and keep these good vibes going! Life is for living after all and if I can have somewhat of a healthy mind then things will work out just fine. I know it.
When you have a new baby, getting a good night’s sleep will be one of the biggest challenges to your wellbeing. With your little one waking up 5 times a night for feedings or changings, there are many things that will keep you up at night when you’re a new parent.
However, it’s so important to look after yourself when you’re a new parent. You might be eager to put your baby first in everything, but don’t let this mean that you neglect your own needs to do so. Sleep is one of the most important, basic requirements that you need to stay physically and mentally healthy, so it’s important to try to get all the shut-eye you need. Here are some top tips for getting as much sleep as possible when you have a new baby.
It’ll take a little time and practice to master this, but if you go to sleep at the same time as your baby, your chances of getting some good sleep are higher. This includes naps too - if your baby dozes off in the afternoon, take this as your chance to fall asleep too.
If your Mam, Dad, friend or sibling offers to look after the baby for a few hours, let them! You may worry about imposing but don’t - they’re asking to help because they genuinely want to, and the sleep you can get during your few hours off will make you feel a million times better!
When feeding your baby in the middle of the night, you may want to pass the time by checking Facebook on your phone or flicking through the TV, but you’re best to avoid this! Looking at a screen late at night seriously affects your sleep, and it may take you much longer to doze off if you do this.
If you put your baby down at the same time every night, they’re more likely to sleep for longer during the night, which gives you some crucial extra snoozing time. Also, try to stick to the same routine and order. For instance, give your baby their bath at the same time, and read them a story at the same time.
Sometimes your baby will stop crying by themselves when they wake up at night. It’s ok to wait a minute or two to see if they stop, but if they cry for any longer than that, they may need to be fed or changed.
Want to experience the continent by lending a helping hand and experiencing different cultures? The European Voluntary Service (EVS) presents travel curious 18-30 year olds Europeans the opportunity to lend their skills and learn.
The European Voluntary Service project is a partnership between two or more promoting organisations. These organisations are responsible for recruiting volunteers for their project. Volunteers participate in EVS through a Sending Organisation in the country where they live and a Receiving Organisation that receives and hosts them during their period of service.
Projects last from 2 weeks to 12 months, and as a volunteer you can work in a wide range of fields, such as culture, youth, sports, children, cultural heritage, arts, animal welfare, environment and development cooperation. is a database that contains lists of volunteer opportunites that are available within and outside the European Union.
Partaking in an EVS project in another country is not a decision you should make lightly. EVS is not a job or a work placement. It is the opportunity for a young person to express their personal commitment through voluntary work in a foreign country.
The aim of EVS is help its young volunteers develop:
Before you sign up for the EVS, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:
You can view the types of positions available on the EVS database. These projects are categorised by topics and location. You can whittle down the content to include the subject areas where you have the most expertise or interest in.
If you’ve ever had unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex, are showing some symptoms that may be a sexually transmitted infection (STI) (burning pains, unusual discharge, or lumps and bumps around your genital area), or want to get a clean bill of health before entering a new relationship, then you should definitely get an STI test.
This may be a bit intimidating if you haven’t had it done before, but honestly, it's no big deal. There are a lot of free STI testing services and most STIs can be treated easily. Treatment is quick, easy and painless, and will have you sorted out in no time. STIs are nothing to be ashamed of! Even if you're not showing symptoms, every sexually active person should get tested now and again, as most STIs won't even show symptoms.
If you still feel a little bit nervous about going, feel free to bring along a mate for support. Apart from that, you don't need to bring anything but yourself!
Some STI clinics operate a walk-in service whereas some offer an appointment, so it's best to check the website or give them a call first. When you arrive, you’ll usually be given a number that will be called when it’s your turn. You’ll be given a form to fill in some personal information and contact details. It’s important that you fill this in correctly, because these details may be used to contact you with your results.
When you meet with the doctor or nurse, they’ll ask some personal questions about your sexual health risks and general health. They’ll ask things about when you last had sex, and what kind of sex it was (vaginal, anal, oral). Don’t feel embarrassed or uncomfortable discussing this - they are a health professional who is well used to hearing about this sort of thing. Based on your answers to these questions they’ll decide what tests you need to do. After that it’s time for your test!
Remember, if you've only recently had unprotected sex, you may have been infected with an STI that won't show up in the test yet. As such, it's best practice to go back for a follow-up test 5-8 weeks later. The staff at the clinic will be able to advise you better on this.
In the majority of clinics, you'll get your results back in 1-2 weeks. In other clinics, rapid testing is offered where you can get your results on the day of the test, but this isn't available everywhere. The staff at the clinic will be able to let you know exactly when you'll get your results, and how they will contact you.
If you test positive for any of the results on the day, you’ll have a little chat with one of the staff at the clinic. They will provide you with antibiotics or any other treatment required. For a lot of infections, symptoms clear up very quickly after taking antibiotics, so the whole thing may be over soon! If you are attending a free clinic, the treatment might also be free of charge too. The nurse or doctor will also give you some pointers on safer sex going forward.
If you test positive for anything in the full results you’ll receive in two weeks, you’ll be invited back to the clinic to receive any treatment or medication you require. If symptoms persist after receiving treatment, make sure to go back to the clinic for a follow-up.
Counsellors may also be available in some clinics and you may be advised to attend for pre test counselling and safer sex education.
You can also test yourself for some STIs at home, find out more about that here.
Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.
More and more people are watching porn because it has become so much more accessible. And although many people may feel that watching porn is harmless, there is the possibility it can give an unrealistic view of what real life sex and relationships are like.
The reality is that real life sex is nothing like how it is portrayed in porn or Hollywood movies.
How often do you see a plumber come to work covered in baby oil, and fake tan? Or a housewife walk around semi-naked while tidying the house?
While most people can separate fantasy from reality, there is the chance that due to watching porn some may have expectations of sex that just cannot be met in real life. If you feel like your sex life just simply does not live up to the Hollywood movies, then fear not… you’re not alone. It’s impossible to live up to an ideal that doesn’t even exist.
Remember, porn stars are actors, and what looks great on screen may not work as well in real life.
There are huge differences between real life sex and porn, and we look at some of them below.
In porn, people are always up for sex. This is not always the case in real life, and it is important that all involved consent to sex, and do not feel pressured into having sex. Likewise, make sure you're partner is fully consenting. If they are not, you need to respectfully understand their decision and not pressure them to change their mind.
Real people versus those in porn
In porn, the men and women look nothing like how people look in real life. The women are all thin, with large pert breasts, perfect nipples, while the men are all tanned, muscular with huge penises. In real life people come in all shapes and sizes, have cellulite and lumps and bumps. This is perfectly normal, so try not to compare yourself to those you see in porn, as this can leave you feeling insecure. Not to mention that in porn both the men and women are often wearing makeup from head to toe, and the room is lit with clever lighting that hides any lumps or bumps.
In porn, both men and women seem to be waxed to within an inch of their life. Because of porn many men expect women to be completely hair free, and as a result many women may feel pressured to remove all their body hair.
However in real life people are hairy, and it really is up to each person to decide if they want to remove their hair or not.
Porn makes it look like guys can get a hard on easy peasy and can last for ages and ages. The men also seem to have huge penises that go on forever. But don’t worry, if you don’t match up in the size department, as the majority of people don’t and most porn stars have penises which are much longer than the average.
It’s different for everyone and while porn actors appear to be able to get hard at the drop of a hat, this is not always the case in real life. If you are having problems getting an erection, it is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. If it continues to be a problem, it may be worth visiting your doctor.
In porn, anal sex is all the rage and it seems like everyone is doing it. However, in real life not everyone is having anal sex or having sex in weird positions. Porn would have you believe that sex is not enjoyable unless you do it standing on your head, up against a wall, and with as many people as possible. Again, this is not always the case. It's great to be adventurous but many people like to have sex in the missionary position and in a bed.
Funny enough… a woman isn't going to become aroused just because there’s an erect penis in the room. In order to become aroused or to come, the clitoris needs to be stimulated. For anyone out there having sex with women, this means lots of foreplay.
Moaning & groaning
In porn you often hear the woman wailing like a banshee as she comes. Once again, this is all acting. So don’t be worried if your partner isn’t as loud as their porn counterparts.
Some people like talking dirty, some don’t. Again it comes down to personal preference. Unlike porn, not all women in the real world will like being called 'bitch' or 'whore', and not all gay men enjoy being called 'twink' or 'slut'.
Often porn stars have sex without using a condom. This does not mean that it is ok for you to have sex without a condom. Porn stars undergo regular STI checks to ensure they don’t pass on any infections. always practice safer sex, and that means using a condom. Remember that condoms are the only form of contraception that protects against the many STIs out there. You should never be pressured into having sex without one.
The ‘Cum shot’
The highlight of most pornos is what people in the industry call the ‘cum shot’. This usually involves a man ejaculating somewhere on someone else's body such as a women's boobs, or a man's face. Contrary to what porn might have you think not everyone will find someone ‘cumming’ on their face sexy. Some people will enjoy it, while some will be completely turned off by it. It all comes down to personal preference.
Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.
This year there has never been more outdoor concerts and festivals happening around the country. Whether you’re camping or a day-goer, there are some very important things you need to consider.
Got anything to add? Leave suggestions in the comments below.
Holidays are when most of us turn pink (or lobster red) in thwarted attempts at getting a golden tan. But do you know the damage those tanning attempts are doing to your skin? Or do you know and just not care?
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Ireland with more than 8,000 new cases being diagnosed every year. Most Irish people have pale skin (meaning a high risk of sunburn) but still risk causing long-term damage to the skin by getting burnt.
Even in cloudy weather, the skin can absorb UV rays and you should use sunblock EVERYDAY to protect your skin. Sunbeds are also a big no-no: your skin absorbs high levels of harmful UV rays every time you pop those goggles on and intentionally bake yourself.
But I hate being pale!
If you MUST have a tan then use fake tan: you can buy a whole range of different types in most chemists or you can go to a beauticians and have the tan applied professionally.