March 4, 2021
Mental health crisis looming among students – Rose Conway-Walsh TD

Rose Conway-Walsh TD’s Student Wellbeing survey results are available to view as a PDF at this link

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Rose Conway-Walsh TD, has warned of a looming mental health crisis among students and urged the Government to act urgently. 

Teachta Conway-Walsh’s comments come as she publishes the results of her Student Wellbeing survey which reveals extremely concerning feelings of isolation, stress and poor mental health among students.

Teachta Conway-Walsh said:

“The results of my survey lift the curtain on some of the extremely difficult circumstances our students are facing and the extraordinary pressure this is putting on them. It is clear that there is a looming mental health crisis among students and the Government must act to stand up for students and put supports in place.

“Students are doing their best to adapt to current challenges and pursue their education remotely but many are clearly hanging on by a thread and need much better support.

“I am very grateful to the 556 students who took the time and effort to share their experiences with me in my survey.

“It is clear that students across the country are struggling to engage with their education online and cope with the new concept of learning alone.

“4 out of 5 students say their college experience has been negatively impacting their mental health. More than 90 per cent report struggling with loneliness, stress and feeling connected.

“1 in every 4 first year students were not aware of the mental health support and counselling services available in their colleges.

“Students shared stories of struggling to get an education while living and studying in completely inappropriate environments. Many are in cramped flat-shares with large numbers of other students or living at home with families also juggling working from home and home-schooling siblings. Many are without proper internet connection, laptops or the desks that they need.

“One student explained they were having to study while sitting on their bed, as their parents and siblings used other desk space for home schooling and working from home. This meant that between studying and sleeping the student is in the same spot for 20 hours per day. This has obvious implications for the student’s mental and physical health.

“Another explained that due to sharing a cramped flat with other students, they were relegated to sitting on the floor in the corner of a room as they didn’t have space for a desk. They spoke of struggling with backache after enduring three hour lectures in this position.

“Other students spoke of the particular challenges of being parents and trying to juggle childcare, home-schooling and looking after their own education in cramped houses.

“The results of this survey are alarming and should be a wake-up call about the level of stress and hardship being faced by students. I am urging the Government to stand up for students and act. 

“I will be bringing these deeply alarming survey results directly to the Minister and calling for him to take immediate action to increase supports and awareness to deal with this mental health emergency.

“The mental health and wellbeing of our students must be a top priority and Sinn Féin will continue to help students during this unprecedented time.”

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health Mark Ward TD said:

“In order for the improvement of mental health and well-being of students to be effective, it must be combined with a broader policy response in society as a whole.

“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.

“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 – we can’t let this happen.”

If you have been affected by any of these issues, please know you are not alone. You can contact the Samaritans on freephone 116 123 or Pieta House on 1800 247247.

 Rose Conway-Walsh TD’s Student Wellbeing survey results are available to view as a PDF at this link

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