Go-ahead for survey on colleges mental health services

Students and staff are to be asked about the standard and level of mental health supports in colleges to help inform possible improvements.

Growing demand for supports has seen some colleges increase their provision, but counselling and other services have been restricted or cut elsewhere due to funding problems over the past decade.

Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor has approved funding by the Department of Education for a wellbeing and mental health self-review survey across all campuses.

The questionnaires for students, welfare officers, and staff at third-level, further education, and private colleges have been devised by NUI Galway’s health and wellbeing team, led by Lokesh Joshi and Saoirse Nic Gabhainn.

“There are positive initiatives happening in a lot of our institutions for higher education, we just need to join up the dots to have a more fulsome and comprehensive picture,” said Prof Joshi.

The survey will help colleges evaluate themselves against best practice and will guide future policy and initiatives in the different sectors. Ms Mitchell O’Connor said all colleges will be asked to contribute.

“Since taking up my position in the department a year ago, I have visited many of the higher and further education institutions where welfare officers and students continually raise the issues relating to students mental health and wellbeing,” she said.

“Stress, anxiety, exam pressure, work life balance, alcohol abuse, substance abuse, recreational or hard drugs, can all negatively impact the wellbeing and resilience of the student.”

The said the initiative has a simple overall aim: To create healthy institutions of learning which nurture and protect their students.

The survey is intended to help her officials ascertain the structures in place across colleges, to facilitate the development of appropriate support pathways.

Through further engagement with institutions, the Department of Education said guidance will be given to the minister’s assessment of what further steps may be appropriate and beneficial.

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