Upwards of 1,500 students have engaged with the Student Counselling Service (SCS) in the 2017/18 academic year thus far, with 80 students who attended an initial consultation still waiting on their first counselling appointment, information provided to Trinity News has shown.
These figures represent a 66% increase since October, when the number of students on waiting lists for their first counselling appointment stood at 48. At the time, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Welfare Officer, Damien McClean, said that be believed the service was “under-resourced” and “understaffed”.
Student Counsellor and Research & Outcomes Coordinator at the SCS, Chuck Rashleigh, commented on the services being provided: “We are working hard to get the most out of the university’s investment in counselling services and offer appointments to all of these students before the exam period starts. Emergency consults are available each weekday by phone or drop-in.”
The Student Counselling Service also provide both a student-to-student (S2S) mentoring programme and a Student Learning Development (SLD) system.
Commenting on these services, Rashleigh noted that “over 4,000 new entrants have been matched with peer mentors this year” while “over 320 students have engaged with SLD on-site at our South Leinster Street base. Hundreds more have attended workshops within their departments or accessed SLD’s online support resources.”
In the period from September 2016 to December 2017, over 1,300 trained S2S mentors delivered orientation tours and social transition support to over 7,000 undergraduate and visiting students. SLD provided 415 one-to-one sessions and 93 drop-in sessions during the same period. Meanwhile the counselling service saw 7,400 one-to-one appointments, 1,160 group appointments and 1,300 online sessions offered to students, reaching over 10% of the total student body.
Aisling Curtis, Co-ordinator of Niteline, the confidential listening service run by and for colleges across Ireland, spoke to Trinity News about a lack of funding and the resultant stress placed on the service, commenting that, for Niteline, the increase in calls that they have witnessed in the past number of years is a positive development, reflecting the fact that more students “seem comfortable reaching out to talk when they need a listening ear”. Curtis continued saying that the increase in demand for Niteline services is manageable and that, “it is possible to meet the demand as it grows by training more volunteers.”
Although the service is open until 2.30 am, Curtis revealed that they see the majority of calls before midnight with the most frequent call topics centred around relationships, college, mental health, and suicide.
These figures follow calls from Michael Kerrigan, President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) in the last budget to increase government funding for counselling services and statements from both University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) and Dublin City University Students’ Union (DCUSU) which state that counselling services are at their most stressed. Kerrigan said last August before the release of the government’s 2018 budget that “USI is urging the government to invest in other key supports like third level mental health counselling, and to ring fence €3m for student counselling and supports per annum”.
In February, the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) released a report revealing that there was a 46% increase in the number of incoming students registering with a mental health condition for the 2016/17 academic year. This increase represents 14% of all new students registered with a disability last year as suffering from a mental health condition.