Letter To My 16-Year-Old Self: Young Offenders’ Jennifer Barry

"PLEASE do not give up, because it gets better!"


Each week, we chat to some of our favourite well-known people about what they’d say to their teenage-self. They reveal what their teens were like and the advice they’d give for the future.

This week, we’re chatting to Jennifer Barry, who you’ll know from her portrayal of Siobhan in The Young Offenders. She’s also a blogger, self-care and mental health advocate, and soon to be podcast host. 

In her letter, she talks about landing her dream job as a teen, managing her mental health and the importance of family and friends. 

“Dear 16-year-old Jennifer (me),

Right now, you are probably dossing a class in Transition Year in school. This isn’t exactly a surprise! School for you was all about having a laugh with staff and students alike, you always found anything academic to be quite a struggle. As a teen, you were funny, over the top and a complete class clown! Sometimes you overdid it on trying to impress people though; take it chill, just be yourself!

The best part of being a teen was all the adventures you got to go on with friends, old and new. Little do you know that some of your best teenage memories will come from trips to Austria, Romania and Paris! You’ll see quite a bit of the world, both the good and bad parts.

What has changed? Well, when you’re 16 and a half you’re going to land a role on one of the biggest Irish TV shows of the 21st century!

It’s okay. Deep breaths! I know you’re young, I know you’re scared, and you think you can’t do it! But the people you meet on this show are going to become your family, and they will help you grow into a person you never once imagined you could be. You’re going to use your platform to speak about important issues, and it’s going to help a lot of people, including yourself.

The hardest part about being a teen for you is going to be your mental illness. This bit is tough to write. Beautiful Jen, things are going to get a bit tough for you. You’re going to be sad for a while I’m afraid. Things will feel impossible and you will feel like it won’t get better.

But please please PLEASE do not give up, because it gets better! You talk to your friends and family, and suddenly they are (and will remain) the most important things/people in your life. Now you’re on top of the world, you feel like you could achieve everything and anything (with a lot of hard work and patience!).

When you grow up life will feel so different. You’ll love yourself both physically and mentally. You’re going to appreciate life and everything in it. You’re going to have so many more adventures and laughs with your friends. Ruth, Claire, Faye, Elyse, Lydia and Afrika are still your main girls. You also have the best group of friends down in West Cork. They love you and you’re all going to have so much fun in the future. Oh! You’re also going to achieve your life-long dream of becoming an actor! It takes time, it doesn’t all happen at once! Just be patient and try your best at every opportunity that comes your way.

What has not changed is that your parents STILL make you lay the table. And you still get into a sulk over it.

My biggest piece of advice to you, 16-year-old Jen, is to make the most of every day and appreciate and embrace every single good thing and every good person that comes your way. It makes the bad things a lot more tolerable.

Love you bud, hang in there.

Jen x”


Check out more form our Letter series here.