On World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10), the Union of Students in Ireland is calling on government to make the necessary investment needed to bring the number of student counsellors up to the internationally recommended ‘safe and ethical’ levels.

Colleges and universities in Ireland currently have only one counsellor for every 2,240 students, even though it is recommended by the International Accreditation of Counseling Services that there should be one counsellor for every 1,000 to 1,500 students.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has increased student mental health funding from €3 million to €5 million, but that figure has only been allocated on an annual basis, leaving these services unable to plan for the future.

Ahead of Budget 2024, USI is calling for Government to immediately commit to multi-annual funding of €6 million a year to maintain core counselling services and to implement the National Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework.

However, USI says Government needs a plan to increase this funding by €11.5 million in order to reach safe counsellor to student ratios to combat the mental health crisis currently affecting our young people, including our students.

This crisis was shown in the Jigsaw My World 2 survey where 8,290 of those surveyed were students, and of the over 8,000 student respondents, 10 per cent said that they had attempted suicide.

Of those who tried to take their own lives, 54 per cent said they tried to get help afterwards, and of those, 48 per cent said they found it ‘difficult/very difficult’ to access help.

USI Vice President for Welfare, Colette Murphy said: “On this World Suicide Prevention Day, and as we get ready for the new academic year, we encourage every student to look into their on-campus student counselling services to make sure they are aware of this support if they need it during the year. There are counselling services in every college and university, and they are free and available to every student.

“However, we cannot talk about student counselling services on a day like today, without highlighting how under-resourced these services are. The counsellor to student ratio is Ireland in nowhere near the levels that are considered safe internationally. We know there is a mental health crisis among our young people in Ireland, and college is a particularly vulnerable time in a person’s life. They face a lot of change, pressure – both academically and financially – and it can often be a lonely and isolating time, if they are away from their families and friends. This is the time that we need to invest in our young people’s mental health and help set them up with the skills needed to deal with the challenges they will face in life and to recognise when they need extra help to look after their mental wellbeing.

“We tell students not to struggle alone and to reach out for help when they need it, but we have to make sure that they can access that help if they do reach out and that they’re not left struggling on the bottom of a waiting list.

“But we do want to emphasis to students that even though counselling services are under-resourced and sometimes there are waiting lists, campus counselling services will set aside emergency appointments for students who are in urgent need for support. So don’t let waiting lists be a barrier to seeking help.”

Supports available to students:

  • Text Hello to 50808 – a free and anonymous text support service, available 24/7
  • Contact your college counselling service or Students’ Union Welfare Officer
  • Make an appointment with your GP
  • In an emergency attend your local A&E or phone 999
  • Call Samaritans on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie
  • Call LGBT Helpline on 1800 929 539 or see LGBT.ie
  • Call the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 77 8888 or email counselling@drcc.ie or open a WebChat on www.drcc.ie