Students’ union calls for action over ‘twice as long’ mental health wait list

Students in Cork have had to walk peers who express suicidal thoughts to a support centre because of a lack of mental health resourcing at third level, a union has claimed.

An official at Cork Institute of Technology’s student union says the waiting list to see a counsellor is so lengthy, some students who experience mental health issues are putting off seeking an appointment in case they take a place from someone suffering greater difficulties.

The union has written to all Cork TDs, as well as President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, to seek extra supports and claim the current six-week wait to see a CIT counsellor is twice as long as that at any other third-level institute in the country.

CIT student union vice president for education Stephanie Kelly said students have had to accompany fellow students to Pieta House after they had expressed suicidal thoughts but had nowhere to turn. In other instances, students were brought to emergency rooms to ensure they were seen by a doctor.

Ms Kelly said that some students will not seek an appointment with a CIT counsellor for fear that they are prolonging the wait for someone who is feeling worse than them.

“It’s sad that students feel the need to prioritise other people when they need to go and seek help for their mental health,” she said.

Ms Kelly said student union officers have had some training in how to spot ‘warning signs’ of mental health difficulties, but that they are not trained counsellors or psychologists. There are instances when students who had not displayed warning signs presented to student union officials expressing suicidal ideation.

“It’s scary. The wait is 60,480 minutes to see a counsellor. That is a long time when you are living with depression every second of the day.”

The letter to politicians warned that Cork is at “crisis point” with regards to mental health.

“In CIT alone, our current waiting list as it stands is six weeks,” the letter states. “From conversations with our colleagues in student unions around the county, we have found that our wait lists are roughly three times what they are in other higher education institutions. Unfortunately, that means that students in need of someone to talk to are being turned away unless they are presenting as an immediate danger to themselves or others. People are dying because they can’t get access to the help that they desperately need People are finally beginning not to be ashamed of their mental health but are still hit with a wall when they seek help.

“We cannot attend more funerals of people who may still be here had they received help. We cannot take on the extra load of one-on-one meetings that we are not equipped for. We cannot risk our own mental health anymore.”

Contact the Samaritans in confidence on 116 123.

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