Sinn Féin’s Mental Health spokesperson Mark Ward TD has reiterated his calls that money announced for mental health supports in higher education institutions should go to “where it is needed and does not get lost in red tape and bureaucracy”.
His calls come prior to the CAO offers that will be announced this Friday
Teachta Ward said:
“It was announced by the government recently with great fanfare that over €5 million was secured for student mental health supports in institutions of higher education nationwide.
“The CAO offers are out on Friday and the Minister needs to insure there is a mental health strategy in place for when students begin the next leg of their educational journey.
“It is vitally important that the additional funding of €3 million that was recently announced goes straight to the colleges, so that they can provide much-needed mental health supports for students.
“And whilst any additional funding for mental health supports is welcome, it is worth noting that this is not new funding.
“€2 million of this funding is old money. It was money was already promised to institutions by Minister Harris’ predecessor in 2019.
“Student Counselling Services (SCS) are doing a good job but are highly stretched and under-resourced. These services are highly valued by students, but access to these services can be a challenge.
“Waiting 9 weeks for an appointment to see a counsellor is not good enough. Early intervention is the key in preventing more acute mental health issues from manifesting.
“Higher Education, like many other institutions, will find it hard to operate when online or ‘blended learning’ are the only options.
“This is devastating to students, not just in an academic sense, but learning online requires a high degree of independent study that many will find hard.
“I know from personal experience as someone who entered third level education as an adult learner that I would have struggled without the peer and lecturer support.
“Losing out on the overall college experience could have a detrimental impact on students wellbeing and their ability to finish their education.
“While the qualification is the goal for students, the journey in achieving the qualification is just as important to the personal development of the student.
“The friends that you make with your peers are lifelong friendships.
“The solidarity of working together in groups and meeting deadlines are important, as are student night outs.
“Access to Mental Health supports are not just needed for the class of 2020 but for all students in Higher Education.”