The Union of Students in Ireland is urging Irish colleges to train their staff on mental health awareness to help the 41% increase in students seeking counselling with staff cutbacks resulting in six month waiting lists to see counsellors, according to new research by AHEAD (the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability) and the National Learning Network (NLN), a division of the Rehab Group.
USI said the staff cutbacks during years of austerity has had a negative impact on the most vulnerable, including those experiencing mental illness who cannot access services due to waiting lists.
“A student in a state of distress being told to wait 183 days until you can get help is insufficient, irresponsible and extremely dangerous.” USI President, Annie Hoey, said. “There are financial strains specifically on students that impacts on their mental health, for example, USI research conducted in October 2015 shows us that 73.1% of students said the high cost of college causes them anxiety or stress, 72% of students are struggling financially to stay in college, and if fees go up, 63% of students said they won’t be able to attend college. This constant worry about financial struggles as well as exam pressures, personal strains and circumstances, can be huge burdens on young people.”
A third of young people between the ages of eighteen and twenty five experience mental health difficulties (this age bracket covering students) according to the Mental Health Matters report. There has been an increase in the number of students progressing to higher education (60%), which proportionately includes an increase in the number of students experiencing mental health difficulties.
“The rising number of third level students experiencing mental illness has not been levelled with support services.” Hoey said. “Full and part-time college staff being trained in mental health awareness will help as an interim measure to help students experiencing mental illness.”