Jumping through hoops for Welfare Week

» Welfare Week launched by Welfare Officer Cormac Cashman to raise mental health awareness in Trinity College
» Recent studies show that demand for one-to-one mental health counselling has risen by 64 percent over past year

Welfare Week kicked off on Monday last, featuring a programme of events aimed at raising awareness of the mental health services available to students in Trinity.
Welfare Officer Cormac Cashman described the week as a response to the rising mental health problems faced by Irish students. “The week is really about reinforcing the message of Mental Health Week – that there are supports here to help students – and informing students of when, where and how they can access them,” Cashman said.
The week began with an open-air performance in Front Square by performing-arts group Express. The group performed a series of monologues inspired by real cases and personal experiences, each telling the story of someone who has been affected by mental health. Express is the name of the community drama project of Paul Bonar, director of Note to Self. The aim of the community drama scheme is to apply drama skills to something relevant to the community, and Bonar chose to focus on mental health.
“I felt strongly about the issue of mental health, and wanted to try promoting mental health awareness through performance,” said Paul Bonar, who is also a Senior Sophister Drama student. The group staged similar performances in the Samuel Beckett Theatre and Trinity Hall on Thursday and Friday. Express has been working with The Student Counselling Service to make the monologues performed available to students online.
Tuesday’s schedule included a talk with Dr Tony Bates, CEO of youth mental health initiative Headstrong. Olympic Boxing silver-medallist Kenny Egan and bronze-medallist Paddy Barnes took part in a “Hoolahoop-a-skip-a-thon” in Front Square that afternoon. The day’s events were rounded off with a fundraiser gig in Think Tank on Eustace St.
The awareness campaign comes at a time of “dramatically increased numbers” availing of College mental health services, according to Cashman.
When asked whether this was the case, Director of College Health Services Dr David McGrath said that he “wouldn’t say there has been a dramatic increase, but there has certainly been a steady rise.”
Student Counselling Service Annual Reports show that demand for one-to-one counselling increased by 64 percent between 2004 and 2009. Demand between the academic years 2007/8 and 2008/9 exceeded the projected increase by 15 percent and has since continued to rise. Allowing for some duplicates, the total number of students availing annually of college mental health and learning support services stands at just over 4,700.
According to Director of the Student Counselling Service Deirdre Flynn, the prospect of a further increase in demand is cause for concern. Due to a lack of space, the offices of the Counselling Service are currently divided between Pearse Street and Luce Hall.
“Our rooms restrict the amount of counselling appointments we can offer,” Flynn said. “But the commitment of the staff in the student service network is terrific.”
“The demand for mental health services in recent years has increased hugely amongst students in Ireland, the UK and the USA. It is not just Trinity College, it is an international phenomenon.”
The Student Counselling Service is due to relocate in August to Phoenix House, South Leinster St. Flynn sees the move to the larger premises as “a reflection of the commitment from College to ensure that students have continuing access to mental health services.”
Information on the range of mental health services available to students can be found at the Welfare Office in House 6. Alternatively, students can visit the Welfare Office’s website at www.tcdsu.org/welfare.
For students concerned about upcoming exams, the Student Counselling Service are now running a series of support workshops aimed at aiding preparation and relieving stress. More information is available from the Counselling Service’s website. which can be accessed at www.tcd.ie/Student_Counselling.