Smiling, laughing, happy students are the first thing you notice when you set foot on any DCU campus. There is a certain euphoric buzz to university life that you will not find anywhere else.
This intoxicating college excitement can overshadow a major problem: students’ mental health. There it is; the elephant in the room, the problem that is ignored, shoved under the rug and left for another day. Except, a problem ignored is still a problem. This problem is evident now more than ever. Irish universities are in dire need of more mental health services.
Studies show that one in four young people experience mental health issues in their lifetime. Ireland has the fourth highest teen suicide rate in Europe and mental health issues are more prominent in Irish society today than ever before. Depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders and personality disorders are all extremely common among Irish third level students.
On the positive side, the rise of mental health awareness in recent years has lead to a growth in the numbers of students seeking help. However, universities are struggling to cope with this increase in demand for mental health services.
Dr Claire Bohan, Director of DCU Student Support and Development, explains to The College View how the service is under pressure as there is such a high demand for counselling services in the last few years.
“We simply cannot meet the demand. It is not that the university does not put enough resources in, they do, it is just that there will always be more demand than there is actual resources available,” Bohan explained, “it is not just DCU, it is across the whole country.”
An Irish Times article revealed the number of students registering with mental health issues at Dublin Institute of Technology has risen by 700 percent in the past four years. This is a problem in all Irish universities. Mental Health services are vital for students, they are at the core of university life.
DCU’s Counselling and Development services compiled a report on ‘The Impact of Counselling’ from feedback they collected from students. It found that 56 percent of students rated counselling as either an ‘important’ or ‘most important’ factor in staying in university. 94 percent of students said that counselling was a ‘most significant’ factor in helping them grow as a person.
Although mental health servies have come a long way in Ireland, much more needs to be done. The demand for services will continue to increase and so mental health awareness needs to keep growing so that students can keep on smiling. “We need to do as much as we can through the unions, class reps and our own services.” Bohan confirms.
Photo Credit: Getty Images