24/7 mental health text line launched by USI

Aoife O'Brien

A 24/7 mental health text line was launched by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) on Monday November 18th.

The service allows a student to connect with a trained volunteer who can assist them with urgent issues including suicidal thoughts, abuse or assualt, bullying, relationship breakdown and self harm.

The volunteer at the end of the phone will be either another student or another young person who has gone through training with the USI in order to be able to deal with these issues.

While anyone could decide to become a volunteer with this service, USI Vice President for the Dublin Region, Craig McHugh said not everyone would be cut out for the job.

“Anyone that would have the skill capacity could embark on becoming a volunteer but it is quite a rigorous process to do so…these are not just students sitting at a laptop coming up with any old thing to say, they’re trained in confidentiality, asked to sign off disclosure agreements, they’re all fully trained in that regard,” he said.

While the volunteers are not professional counsellors McHugh said  they are aware of the red flags and would advise a student to seek professional help if any of these flags were raised.

However, counselling services are not something that are offered by the USI at present.

“It’s not something that the USI would probably have the capacity to do at the moment. Obviously we’d hope to look into the feasibility of these kinds of things but that’s not where we’re looking at going at the moment,” McHugh said.

With research from the USI showing that among students who participated in the USI National Report on Student Mental Health in Third Level Education, just under a third of students have received a formal diagnosis of their mental health, USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick is urging students to reach out and seek help.

“This is such an important resource for students, anxiety and depression is something that an uncountable amount of students suffer from on a day to day basis…we found that 34.4 per cent of students were put on a waiting list for counselling services for at least one week, this text line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she said.

The new service is also placing a firm focus on looking after the mental health of their volunteers, according to McHugh.

T”he volunteers work in shifts and can choose for themselves when they’re comfortable working. If they’re not themselves or not feeling up to the job then obviously they’re not encouraged to do the job,” he said.

“It is not a case that people are on call 24 hours a day seven days a week, this is very much managed with the volunteers mental health in mind also because you can’t take care of others if your not taking care of yourself.”

Students can text USI to 086 1800 280 to start a conversation with a volunteer and standard SMS rates may apply.

Aoife O’Brien

Image Credit: USI