On World Mental Health Day, October 10th, The Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science launched a new National Framework to tackle the issue of mental health and suicide in students of further and higher education.
The Framework has been developed in conjunction with the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Health’s ‘Connecting for Life - Ireland’s National Strategy to Reduce Suicide’. According to the Department of Further and Higher Education, it is design to help ‘address any gaps which might exist in the prevention of suicide in higher education’.
In a statement put out by the department, Minister Simon Harris said: “The theme this year is Mental Health for All – Greater Investment – Greater Access.
“Mental health has been defined by the World Health Organization as ‘a state of wellbeing in which the individual recognises their own abilities and is able to cope with normal daily stresses in life. This framework builds on this premise and encourages our HEIs to act in nine specific areas – to lead, collaborate, educate, engage, identify, support, respond, transition and improve.
“The number one health issue for young people in Ireland today remains concerns or worries around their mental health. These concerns have been compounded by the isolation and [uncertainty] brought forward by the COVID-19 pandemic...We know many students face mental health difficulties but we also know some students will face greater challenges than others including those in the LGBTQ+ community, international students, asylum seekers, mature students”.
A text service has been established to support students in distress. The text number 50808 is a free and anonymous service, supported by 300 volunteers; “50808 is a free text service, providing everything from a calming chat to support for people going through [...] mental health difficulties. Volunteers are available 24/7 for anonymous, supportive text conversations. Text your institution keyword to 50808”.
Ruairí Power, UCDSU Welfare Officer, welcomed the launch of the National Framework: "The Students' Union welcomes the launch of the Framework and commend the work of all those involved, particularly Dr. Tríona Byrne, Clinical Lead of the UCD Student Counselling Service for her involvement in the Connecting for Life working group. We also thank the UCD Psychology department for their immense contribution to Youth Mental Health research that has played a huge role in the development of the framework.
“The need for a University-Wide Mental Health Oversight Taskforce is recognised in the framework and is a model which this year's sabbatical team Students' Union have advocated for since the start of our term.
“In order to cope with additional demand for student mental health supports, the University must make a clear commitment to increasing the capacity of the Student Counselling service as a matter of urgency. We are calling for a fully costed plan for the future of mental health support services and initiatives on campus to be developed, which will set out clear funding and recruitment targets for UCD.
“The Students' Union also recognises our role in promoting positive mental health among students and doing whatever we can to support those who are experiencing mental health difficulties throughout what is an incredibly difficult period for students. We look forward to working with support units across campus to achieve this.”