For the Government to invest in third level mental health counselling and to ring-fence €3m for student counselling and supports per annum

Ireland has some of the highest levels of participation in third-level education within the EU. The importance of promoting positive mental health among the large third-level student population cannot be underestimated with A Vision for Change (2006) showing a high percentage of students experiencing mental health difficulties. These difficulties include: depression, anxiety, loneliness, substance misuse, and suicidal behaviour. This document also shows, almost 75% of all mental disorders first emerge between the ages of 15 and 25.

The provision of counselling services to meet the growing numbers and diverse needs of students has not kept pace. Waiting lists are currently seeing students waiting for up to six weeks. 61.6% of students are experiencing burnout attending third level education while 27.6% in college have dropped out due to stress (USI Student Dropout Survey, 2016).  In light of the considerable demand students are experiencing and the fundamental importance to students in need, Higher Education Institutions’ budget allocations for counselling services, infrastructure and mental health supports should be ring-fenced.

To invest in third level counselling services is to invest in the education and development of students and the institution. Figures from Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education Ireland (PCHEI) 2014-15 report outlines over 50% of clients stated that their difficulties were either negatively or very negatively impacting their studies. Over 17% of clients identified high to very high dropout risk at the time they first sought counselling. 8 of the 11 services ask clients to rate counselling’s impact on their studies and retention and/or progression. 6 of these provided data. The data showed 27% of clients indicated counselling was a factor in their retention and/or progression (1,427 students), and 23% indicated counselling helped their academic performance (1,186 students). This is supported by the Reaching out in College Report – which indicates that nearly two thirds of students who took part in the survey (63%) would be likely to avail of one-to-one counselling on campus.

To achieve this, Government must invest in third level mental health counselling and ring-fence €3m for student counselling and supports per annum to tackle this issue and increase the academic experience for all.

  • Costings: €3m ring-fenced for student counselling and supports per annum
  • Responsibility: Department of Education and Skills; Department of Health