Male students less likely to seek mental health help in college

More students are coming forward for mental health help in college, but men are less likely to do so until things reach crisis stage, analysis of a support service at NUI Maynooth has found.

The Student Central programme at the Co Kildare college helps students participate successfully with the help of a psychologist.

While the numbers of students at NUIM with a mental health condition rose from 49 to 64 in four years, this only takes account of those registering for support which requires documentation from a psychiatrist. A 2010 Dublin City University study found up to 70% of people with mental illness choose to hide their condition.

Of 67 students registered with the Student Central service in its first year to last May, most attended between five and 10 times, and more than two thirds were women.

The research paper presented at yesterday’s Higher Education Authority access conference said seven of the eight students who registered late in the college year were male, accounting for one in three of the men who attended the service.

“Something needs to be done to encourage [men] to use the service from the start of the academic year and not just when things start to fall apart. People suffering from psychiatric symptoms, even if severe, often do not seek professional help,” wrote NUIM disability adviser Bridget Gormley and Sara McManus, assistant psychologist with the National Learning Network.

“Young men are particularly reluctant to seek help unless severely distressed, which may be important in understanding the high suicide rate for men.”

The focus of sessions was on developing academic skills like essay-writing and time management, but students also worked on stress management and social skills, with non-academic issues referred to other professional services. Students gave positive feedback and were asked to suggest improvements or outline issues affecting non-regular attendance.

“Lecturers, particularly course co-ordinators, should know about this facility and should be able to recommend it to students when they go looking for help,” one responded.

“I didn’t attend regularly as I found it difficult to leave my apartment ... due to my anxiety and depression,” wrote another. The paper highlighted issues of continuity of care for young people, as some who have had help from adolescent mental health services are not always accepted by adult services.

“Many students are on maintenance only, which means they only see a psychiatrist once every six months. It can be difficult to access supports outside of this, unless the student can afford private support,” it said.


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