TCDSU passes motion to improve clinical and social work placement supports

The motion passed at council tonight mandates the union to work to improve supports for students on clinical and social work placements

Trigger warning: this article mentions suicide. 

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) passed a motion at Council this evening to improve support for students on clinical and social work placements. 

TCDSU are now mandated to lobby for the creation of more out-of-hours appointment slots within College’s Counselling Service, and the formation of support groups for students on placement. 

The union are also mandated to work towards the introduction of a reformed tutor system, requiring tutors to organise welfare meetings with students during their placements. TCDSU will also collaborate with the relevant heads of schools to ensure that teaching staff working with placement students are provided with mental health guidelines. 

The motion also mandates TCDSU to continue to demand increased funding for mental health services from College and government. 

The motion was proposed by Medicine Convenor William Reynolds, and seconded by junior sophister medicine student Conor Nolan, junior fresh social work student Aisling Dillon and TCDSU Welfare and Equality Officer Sierra Mueller-Owens. 

The motion noted that many students on clinical and social work placement become “disconnected and isolated,” and regretted that “there are inadequate structures in place to safeguard the mental health of these students.”

The motion expressed concern that “multiple suicides have taken place within the past four years, particularly within the mediecal student cohort, with a lack of implemented change. 

Speaking at Council this evening, Reynolds said: “We need something to happen and we need something to happen fast.” He highlighted recent suicides within the School of Medicine and beleives College is “moving at a snail’s pace” on the issue.

Mueller-Owens added that responses from academic staff on this issue have been “incredibly frustrating”. She urged Council to vote in favour of the motion.

Deputy Health Sciences Convenor Emily Sweeney then spoke in favour of the motion and highlighted its importance for students on placement. She said that “the reality of this is that the students come first” and “students in [Health Sciences] don’t have the supports they need”.

Speaking to Trinity News before Council, Reynolds said that this motion is “really important as students on clinical placement make up a big cohort”. He noted that “due to time constraints and not being around campus it’s really difficult to engage with the college community, leaving it as almost a ‘forgotten group’”. 

“The college support network needs to come to the student, instead of full onus being on the student to seek support. This is just the first step in changing the structured supports we have in place.”

He highlighted that “it’s so easy to become isolated while on these clinical placements and there are very few tailored supports to cater for this” and  “ithin medicine for instance have been multiple suicides in the past few years among students who have been on clinical placement something needs to clearly change”.

Reynolds said that “these issues extend college wide and feed into the larger discourse of the underfunding of student supports”. However he believes  “there are measures which can and should be done that don’t have a huge cost involved that will create a better college environment not just for students on clinical placement but for everyone”.

College has recently faced calls for increased mental health funding, following the death of Trinity medicine student Mark Melnychuk in February. 

Last month, TCDSU discussed shortfalls in College’s mental health services at an impromptu town hall

Additional reporting by Jack Kennedy, Kate Henshaw, David Wolfe and Ellen Kenny

Sarah Emerson

Sarah Emerson is currently a Deputy News Editor of Trinity News. She is a Senior Sophister English Literature and Jewish and Islamic Civilizations Student.