The UCD Health Service spent a total of €142,020 referring students who sought counselling on campus to external counselling services for the academic year 2017/2018, The University Observer has learned.
Information received under the Freedom of Information Act showed that 672 vouchers were issued last year to students who applied for an appointment with a counsellor on campus. This is a stark increase from the previous academic year, in which 215 vouchers were issued by UCD Health Services. €32,536 was spent in 2016/2017 referring students to external counsellors.
To cope with the demand for counselling services, UCD Health Services began issuing vouchers to students to cover the cost of seeking counselling outside of UCD in 2015/2016.
In relation to the term 2015/2016, the document states that UCD Health Services operated a “subsidy scheme from whereby student were given €250 subsidy amount toward counselling.” The total expenditure for that year amounted to €7,600, with a total for 44 individual subsidies issued to student cases.
The University does not currently offer subsidies on external counselling. UCD Health Services operates on a policy of offering students who are seeking to meet a counsellor, vouchers to see an external counsellor. All students who sign up for a counselling appointment are emailed the offer of the voucher which entitles them to five free counselling sessions with an external counsellor that is partnered with UCD. Pieta House and Samaritans are both examples of the type of external services that have partnered with UCD.
In an interview with the University Observer, Director of Student Health in UCD, Dr Sandra Tighe said that the increase in the amount spent on referring students to external counsellors year on year “was due to service demands”.
“UCD Health Service provided vouchers for off-campus counselling where the students needs were sought… We engaged external providers in November 2016 as we identified the increased demand on the counselling services”, Dr Tighe said.
At the time of going to print, Dr Tighe told the University Observer that there are currently 133 students on the UCD Health Centre list for internal appointments, consisting of students who have applied for counselling from the start of the academic term 2018/2019 and students who signed on during the summer period. When seeking an appointment with a counsellor in UCD, students are referred into one of three categories: ‘standard’, ‘priority’ or ‘emergency’. Students who fall into the ‘priority’ and ‘emergency’ categories “have been offered an in-house on-the-day appointment,” according to Dr Tighe. Dr Tighe re-iterated that all student who come to the Health Services are given the option of availing of vouchers for five sessions with an external counsellor affiliated with UCD. “Those students that opt not to use a voucher are then placed on a ‘first appointment’ list for internal counselling.”
Dr Tighe was unable to answer how many UCD students have been referred to outside counselling services by the Health Services since the beginning of the academic term 2018/2019 as “the reportable statistics are compiled on a monthly basis and we cannot offer finalised statistics on the number of students being referred to our affiliated off-campus counselling providers at this time as we have yet to get final numbers back for September.”
Along with the increase in expenditure over the past three years, UCD has increased the amount allocated for hiring three internal staff. Namely, one full-time clinical lead, one full time clinical lead, one full time student well-being assessment professional and one part time student well-being assessment professional. When asked about what the role and responsibilities of the student well-being assessment professional is, Dr Tighe replied “the role of the assessment professionals is similar to that of a triage professional; to meet with every student who presents for counselling to determine how their needs would best be met.” The three new positions are set to be filled by December 2018.
Recently, UCD has introduced new out of office hours services for students needing to see a counsellor. The University has re-affiliated with Niteline, a service that provides UCD students with ree, anonymous, confidential listening and information, from the hours of 9pm to 2:30am every night during term time.
Dr Tighe told the University Observer that Student Services have worked “in consultation with UCDSU, UCD Student Counselling and UCD Student Advisers” to introduce SliverCloud, an online therapy service available 24-hours a day to students. The service was launched on Thursday 4th October, during ‘Mental Health Week’. This online service is “user driven”, with “live referral links within Silvercloud which places users in touch with UCD student health & adviser professionals.”
SilverCloud offers students “self taught course providing positive coping mechanisms…with modules with content relevant to their current needs and at their own pace,” however it is not “an all accumulating therapy.” The service is aimed at students experiencing “stress and mild cases of anxiety and depression.”
All registered UCD students can sign up to SliverCloud through the UCD Mobile App. Alternately, this tool can be accessed through any web browser on any device with the following url: ucd.slivercloudhealth.com/signup