Thomas Pringle TD

Thomas Pringle TD – Mental Health Supports For Students, We Must Step Up To The Mark

I want to question the mental health supports that are available to students in the various colleges around the country, particularly in the light of Covid-19 and the extra pressures on young people in terms of their mental health. Studies conducted by USI prior to the Covid-19 outbreak showed that over 25% of students had to wait more than four weeks to see a mental health professional within their colleges. What will be done to make that situation different this year?

Access is the key. There is no point in having fantastic mental health services if only 2% of the students who need them can actually access them. USI conducted a survey on access and prior to Covid-19, over 25% of students were waiting more than four to six weeks for mental health supports, which is over half of a term. That was the situation prior to Covid-19 and we are going to see an increase in demand now, given what has been happening. I am doubtful as to whether the €5 million referred to is an actual increase in funding. What will it actually mean in terms of delivering extra services? I do not think it will come anywhere near what is required when one considers that in terms of the rest of the education budget, we are talking about hundreds of millions of euro. A sum of €5 million for mental health seems to be minimal. I hope I am wrong and that it will benefit students because I believe there will be an increase in demand for services this year. We must step up to the mark and make sure that the demand can be met.

We must make sure it meets the needs of the students. Figures from USI indicate that 38.4% of students experienced severe levels of anxiety, 29.9% experienced depression and 17.3% experienced stress. That was in the pre-Covid era so we are going to see an increase in all of that. There is also the added difficulty in reaching students and making services available to them when they are not on campus. We must keep a close eye on this to make sure that the funding provided is actually achieving what it is setting out to achieve. We must monitor it closely because that will be key to service provision.

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