By Ceile Varley
I ended up the Larkfield Party on September 18. I went for free food, music and most importantly to hustle first years into writing for the College View. After a while I realised many of the other people there were also second and third years that had come for a free drink and to check out the first year talent, in one way or another.
During the night a girl came up to me and told me that I had introduced her to her best friend the year before. She staggered away and one of the boys in the group asked me if that was my job – to introduce people to each other.
I smiled, because I used to know someone just like that. Someone who took the greatest pleasure in making introductions, in cementing friendships and ensuring everyone else was happy. If she had been paid for it she would have made millions. She was impossibly beautiful, successful and darkly funny. You could never have guessed that she was depressed.
When I told Una Redmond that we were planning to do an issue focusing on mental illness among young people she was encouraging but asked me to warn the counselling services in advance – as the already stretched services would be unable to deal with a deluge of students seeking help.
DCU spent €12,000 on a recent lecture on student staff engagement. This would pay a third of one DCU counsellor’s yearly salary. While both are surely worthwhile things to spend money on, one may save a life. One will not.
Does DCU have enough counsellors to cater for student need? Are we doing enough for our young people? The College View intends to focus on these issues and more throughout the year, as we have done in this edition.
It’s not good enough when people with depression still face the stigma of mental illness. It’s not good enough when they are treated as a lesser person in the classroom or the workplace. It will never be good enough that our best and our brightest – the young people who were meant to grow up to build this country back to prominence – are dying.
An estimated 300,000 people in Ireland suffer from depression at any given time, according to figures from The Ireland Funds.
More than 500 people die from suicide in Ireland every year – our young and our old, our teachers, our beggars, our business professionals. Depression does not discriminate.
The suicide rate rose 25% in 2009, as the effects of the recession began to hit home and has stayed constant since. Since then mental health funding has continued to be cut every year. It is now at its’ lowest level in modern history, at less than 5% of the HSE budget.
Half of all those who die from suicide are under 30 years old. It is the number one killer of young men in Ireland, and has been so for some years – affecting more than road deaths, drink or drugs. This is not good enough.
Around 10,000 cases of attempted suicide are reported in Ireland every year. Some of these are by children as young as five. This is not good enough.
In 2011, just three out of 14 mental health service regions in Ireland could say that they could provide the full range of psychiatric, nursing, psychological, social work and occupational therapy required. This is not good enough.
One in four of us will have to seek treatment for a mental health problem at some point in our lives. Losing a loved one to suicide is not an experience I hope most DCU students have to face, nor is personally facing depression. Let’s all do whatever it is we can to help.