Breathe was established as a not-for profit organization with the purpose of creating awareness on positive mental health, supporting “The Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention issued by the Department of Education and Skills.

The Breathe programme specifically addresses elements in the Prevention Guidelines through creating a creative learning environment. Moreover the structure and rationale of this programme addresses the reality that problems arise in everyone’s lives but coping with them is a strategy that can be learned. Breathe, unlike other programmes in the Suicide prevention field is not dealing with students who are at the cliff edge rather it is teaching them to cope in order to avoid ever getting there.

Breathe comprises of 4 workshops for parents, teachers, management and students. Workshop 1 discusses the rationale for a prevention policy in every centre/school. Workshop 2, 3 and 4 are facilitated by trained personnel and constantly evaluated and reviewed. The school community is an extension of the family unit and we must ensure the core is healthy. We must adopt a unified approach based on knowledge and common sense in order to bring about change.

The programme has now been successful in over 200 schools and feedback in the main has been very positive from students, parents, psychologists and staff.

Students: 8,149
Teachers: 1713
Parents: 1318

Breathe has been a great success, meeting its stated aims of helping adults and young people develop a stronger awareness of mental health and well-being through a quality arts experience. The legacy of the programme can be seen as lifting silence, improving communication and enabling people to think and speak more freely on difficult issues. There was a genuine appetite for more amongst the workshop participants, more discussion, more knowledge and more workshops . The opportunity for creative expression of emotions and the ability to see and think from other perspectives was invaluable. The positive impact that this work has on young people, particularly those who have direct experience of mental health issues, cannot be underestimated and the work should be continued. It was noted Breathe have brought together the best of deep dialogue work and creative expression through drama in a safe yet challenging environment. Participants are encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and are supported as they explore new or previously hidden territories.

The programme has also contributed to the wider sector – it was acknowledged by two psychologists that the work of Breathe Programme reaches into new areas that the traditional methods don’t touch on.

“We feel as psychologists that this is a very useful preventative programme to help young people alongside their teachers and parents to use positive ways to deal with Mental health issues and develop skills and resiliency for coping with life challenges. We feel that not only does it raise awareness for young people around the issues of mental health but also gives them the tools to become more resilient around these issues. It has received a very positive response in the centres where it has been run.  One staff member commented “the best piece of experiential learning in years”

Georgie Maher Reg. Couns. Psychol., Ps.S.I.
Claire Donohue Reg. Couns. Psychol., Ps.S.I., AF Ps.S.I.

Staff / People

Breathe is a joint partnership between the public/private sector, Education and Training Board Ireland and the Gaiety School of Acting The National Theatre School of Ireland. It is a professional response to the ever increasing suicide trend. Research indicates that schools that incorporate music, art, drama, dance and creative writing into their curriculum significantly increase a student’s overall success in school.

Ger Canning

Ger first began teaching at Coláiste an Chraoibhín, Fermoy in the early 90’s. Her interest in the Arts culminated in the formation of FETAC accredited Performing Arts programmes in the college. In 2004 her relationship with the ETB continued when she was appointed Principal at St. Fanahan’s College Secondary School in Mitchelstown. Ger is now an Adult Education Officer with Cork ETB which is a position she has held since 2008. In developing the BREATHE project Ger created a partnership between the ETBI and The Gaiety School of Acting with which she has a long standing relationship.

Patrick Sutton

Director- The Gaiety School of Acting, The National Theatre School of Ireland

Patrick trained at Dartington College of Arts, graduating with a BA (honours) Theatre and received his MA (Screenwriting) from IADT. He is a former director of Wexford Arts Centre and of Team Educational Theatre Company.

He has been director of The Gaiety School of Acting since 1993. He is a founder and director of Smock Alley Theatre-1662 and of Communicate, a communications company working at a senior level in industry, politics and the arts.

He was a government appointee to the board of The Arts Council (1997-2005) The Irish Museum of Modern Art (2000-2005) and to Culture Ireland (2005-2009). He is board member of The Lisa Richards Agency and until recently was a member of the governing authority of The Dublin Institute of Technology.
“More than ever we have a responsibility to connect with young people and encourage positive dialogue about mental health and to that end we have designed (as a part of our education and outreach mandate) a dynamic, engaging and enjoyable programme in which young people will be encouraged to talk about their feeling through the vehicle of creative drama, visual art and role play.

Anna Kadzik-Bartoszewska

Originally from Karkow, Poland Anna Kadzik-Bartoszewska holds a BA in Art History from the the Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow, M.Arch Sc. in Architecture, College of Architecture, MA in History from Pontifical University of John Paul II and a PhD in Art History from University College Dublin. She has taught in UCD, worked at the Chester Beatty Library and joined the Gaiety School of Acting team in August 2012. She coordinates outreach drama workshops in Primary and Post-Primary schools and specially tailored sessions for Higher Education Level, Corporate, Language schools and Breathe Programme.