Trinity’s Disability and Mental Health Services: An Exploration

Colm Caldwell outlines and evaluates the Disability and Mental Health Services available at Trinity, from the perspective of both staff and students

College can be a tumultuous period in anyone’s life, especially if you suffer from poor mental health or disabilities that challenge your ability to achieve your full potential. The question is: are Trinity’s services adequate for the needs of students struggling with mental or physical conditions? Whether counselling seems like the only solution, if you have dyslexia and the words on the page just don’t seem to translate quite right, or you, like myself, are hard of hearing or deaf and need specific supports to put you on a level playing field with others, in the end, we all need a bit of assistance sometimes.

“Once a student comes in the door, we carry out a support needs assessment programme (SNAP), which is typically between half an hour to sixty minutes to find out what people need at that moment in time.”

Firstly, looking at the counselling service on Leinster Street South, Mark Robinson, a team leader and counsellor within the service, spoke to Trinity News about what they had to offer students struggling with their mental health. Robinson stated that “once a student comes in the door, we carry out a support needs assessment programme (SNAP), which is typically between half an hour to sixty minutes to find out what people need at that moment in time.” An anonymous student, who availed of these services, reaffirmed the efficiency of the process, recalling that “I went in and they gave me one preliminary session to scope out what I needed, what they could do for me. They offered me 12 CBT sessions, every two weeks”.

“Robinson explained to Trinity News that current wait times are 3-4 weeks to get a SNAP session and another 3-4 weeks after that until one-to-one counselling generally begins.”

This student had a good experience of the service and went on to say: “It was such smooth sailing. I sent an email to them and then that week they were like ‘Come in for the provisional session.’ A week after that, I started the counselling.” However, another anonymous student, who also spoke to Trinity News, has had both positive and negative experiences with Trinity’s counselling service. She explained that “I went to them during the pandemic. I had a really shocking experience with them, they were really poor. I was on the waitlist for so long and they didn’t really offer me anything. It was very disregarding”. In response to this, Robinson explained to Trinity News that current wait times are 3-4 weeks to get a SNAP session and another 3-4 weeks after that until one-to-one counselling generally begins. 

For many, this can be too long, especially if they are approaching a crisis point. However, the amount of students availing of the service lends itself to disconcertingly long wait times; further investment from the college is required. Naturally, wait times vary a lot over the course of the year but Robinson stressed that any student in emergency is almost always seen that same day or, at the latest, the day after.

However, speaking about a separate occasion she engaged with the service, the second interviewee described that “I had a breakup and it was coming up to exam time. I went to them and I [asked] can I get any sort of extension on one or two of my essays. I think because I went through my tutor they were really accommodating. Then they offered me a counselling session and I was able to do eight weeks of it, every two weeks.” Reaffirming what Robinson said, it seems as though the counselling services can recognise when a student needs immediate help. She added: “The gripes I had with my first experience were pretty much mitigated by my second experience. They kind of fought for me in a way. They were advocating for me and it was more like Trinity itself that were like ‘No, these are the deadlines’.” This seems to show that Trinity could have more compassionate policies in general when it comes to extensions and deferrals.

Aside from one-on-one counselling, Trinity also offers other services such as group counselling, an addictive behaviours group, Mind Body Boost in collaboration with the sports centre, and an online programme called SilverCloud which Robinson described as “guided self-help: reading psychoeducational materials, responding to them online and then me or one of my colleagues will review your responses once a week and respond via email.” The first interviewee’s experience of SilverCloud was negative. She mused “They offered me SilverCloud and I was just like ‘no, I’m not talking to a computer’.” and added “It’s just like homework”. It seems there is a disparity between the intended benefits of these services against how students actually respond.

In terms of Trinity’s disability service, Trinity News spoke to Gerard Gallagher, head of Student Disability Supports and Deputy Director of the Disability Service. When speaking about the service, he revealed that “the disability service provides a range of supports for students based on their individual needs. We have assistive tech, ongoing academic support, respite spaces and sensory spaces.” Gallagher also discussed the procedure for when a student comes to the Disability Service, as he stated that “we put supports in place based on an individual needs assessment, typically a 40-minute conversation. [The question is] how do we support the student to develop those transformative skills for future success?”

Niamh Delaney has been receiving ongoing support from the Disability Service for her hearing loss and she had nothing but positive things to say about them. Speaking with Trinity News, she declared that “their ability and will to help in the most effective way was tremendous”, adding that they were “from the outset, amazing”. Niamh rounded off her glowing review of the Disability Services with further praise, expressing that “I have to say, I’m very impressed with them. They have a suite of services they can offer people and all I’ve seen is an ability and a willingness from them to try and modify them to see how they work before we try something different.”

Gallagher informed me that 10.1% of the student population of Trinity are registered with a disability, far exceeding the national average of 6%. He also stressed that, from November 1, the Disability Service is moving to the brand-new Printing House Square, with a new dedicated disability hub, stating that “we want to get students connected with the entire Trinity community. I think that’s so important.”

Both Gallagher and Robinson made it very clear that the main thing that students should do is reach out and seek the help on offer. Robinson noted “If you’re on the fence about coming, come. You can always hear what we have to offer. Knowledge is power. So, if you have knowledge of what’s on offer that can sometimes be enough.” Reinforcing this sentiment, Gallagher added that “any student can come to drop in.” So, if you’re struggling with a disability or your mental health, get in touch with either service and they’ll walk with you through the process every step of the way. You have nothing to lose by reaching out, seeking help and availing of what’s on offer.

Search “Mental Health Management – Trinity”, “Counselling Service – Trinity” and “Disability Service – Trinity” to find out more about each. Please also search “Student Counselling Trinity – Confidentiality” for more information on the conditions surrounding confidentiality.