Counselling services in the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway) have secured an additional €5,000 after more than 50 students staged a protest in response to the alleged underfunding of the university support service.
The new funds are set to allow an extra four drop-in slots per day for students, bringing the number of drop-in appointments each day up to 12.
NUI Galway Students’ Union (NUIGSU) reported that during the week before Mental Health Week, 14 students were turned away from drop-in appointments. NUIGSU expressed concerns that their counselling service is understaffed and underfunded, and therefore unable to adequately “meet the rising needs of [NUI Galway’s] 18,000 students”.
Speaking to Trinity News, NUIGSU President Megan Reilly explained they were “delighted” with the additional funds. “We hope students feel empowered to know that we as a group have the capacity to make such a positive, tangible change.”
“We are glad as well to have called attention to our deficit in counselling staff, and we will continue to lobby the President to address this. By no means are we stopping here with this campaign,” Reilly continued.
This year, the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) reported a 46% increase on the 2016/17 academic year in the numbers of incoming university students registering with a mental health condition.
Prior to the release of the 2018 Budget, then USI President, Michael Kerrigan, urged the government to increase their funding of third level counselling services. Additionally, both the University College Dublin (UCD) and Dublin City University (DCU) students’ unions stated that their universities’ counselling services were stretched thin in comparison to previous years.
In February of this year, Trinity saw 80 students on the waiting list for their first counselling appointment with Trinity’s Student Counselling Service (SCS). This backlog was the result of the “understaffing” and “underfunding” of the SCS, according to Damien McClean, then Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Welfare Officer.
Later, the SCS was able to meet with 35 of those students, cutting their waiting list in half. Student Counsellor and Research and Outcomes Coordinator at the SCS, Chuck Rashleigh, accredited the improvement to increased resources, including the Corporate Services Division allowance for the employment of additional counsellors, and Estates and Facilities providing three temporary extra rooms for the SCS to hold counselling meetings.
The latest NUIG protest follows a mock campout staged by students from NUIG and the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) last month in protest of the rising cost of student accommodation, with roughly 250 students in attendance.