Students left behind yet again

Image Credit: Sinéad Mohan

Michael Tuohy delves into new figures which show a rise in Mental Health appointments, and asks who is to blame.

The uncertainty around the return to college, with many students told only at the last minute that their course would be online, has led to a rise in anxiety, experts have said.

Jigsaw, a youth mental health charity, said that in July alone it offered 2,000 appointments to young people struggling with their mental health, a 50 per cent increase compared with the same month last year. It also offered 2,000 appointments in August, and Mike Mansfield, the charity’s director of communications and fundraising, said the “demand keeps going up”. People were “absolutely hugely anxious” because of the uncertainty about returning to college, Mr Mansfield added.

Niteline Dublin, an out-of-hours peer support service for third level students, said that calls relating to mental health had risen significantly on this time last year.

Since the service resumed last week, calls relating to mental health have made up 17.4 per cent of all calls, up from 3.1 per cent on the same week last year. Calls relating to stress also increased from 2.48 per cent last year to 8.7 per cent this year.

Although many students were told that they would have at least some classes in person, it was announced a fortnight ago by the state that all of the third-level institutions had been classed as Level Three under the Covid-19 Health Guidelines. At the time this meant that almost all lectures and most tutorials would be carried out online for between two and three weeks due to a rise in cases of the Coronavirus cases across the country. Then last week, UCD announced that all classes would be held online for the entire trimester. This has put students in a horrible position, with some having to pay for and stay in accommodation that they no longer actually need. Some also have to deal with online learning with inadequate internet, if they even have access to the internet or a computer. And this isn’t even considering people who enjoy college as an escape from abusive or crowded homes. This is an absolute mess that UCD and the State have manipulated the student populace into, with no consideration for them in their decision-making. 

At the absolute best of times, UCD is a mess. A management body in charge that actively doesn’t care about its students has made life hard for everyone on campus that doesn’t have a rich family member paying extra cash into a fund for them. Money is constantly being put into new buildings that aren’t needed over necessary facilities, for example, Mental Health Services on campus. These services have been left behind in UCD, and this country in general, so it’s no surprise that no thought has been put into the subject by either party during the current pandemic. 

And where is there any mention of this in the media? Surely there would be some massive outcry about the effect this is having on the group of people that have been the lifeblood of this country throughout this pandemic? Nothing? Of course, nothing. The public would rather listen to the government-line of accusing young people (when they’re not giving out about Sinn Féin or laughing about the state of healthcare anywhere outside of Dublin) of flouting the rules and dragging us further into the abyss. No mention of the government’s absolute incompetence with their handling of outbreaks in meat factories, which were never shut down or checked despite screams over safety concerns from the workers inside them. No mention of their blatant uncaring attitude towards inhumane conditions in Direct Provision Centres. No attack on the shocking underfunding of healthcare services all over this island, especially the little to no investment in ICU beds that will lead us into another countrywide lockdown in just a few short days or weeks. Young people are to blame as always for all the ills of society. 

Of course, the constant blame and shame of being young and wanting to live a normal life in this country would lead to people having mental health issues. We can’t even try and build a life for ourselves without serious luck and an incredible amount of work. There are pressures that past generations have never had to deal with and will never fully understand. When all these issues pile up, where can we go? Mental health services are hard spots to find in the best of times. And once we step into lockdown again, these services will almost certainly all be full up and completely inaccessible for most. The effect this has on the young people of this country is solely on the shoulders of this government, and UCD shouldn’t be let off either. Their absolute greed means students will be isolated from their families and short on money for absolutely no reason other than to line the college’s pockets so that they can build an extension onto Deeks’ already lavish office. This is on UCD management’s head too. 

If you are suffering with mental health difficulties at this time, please reach out to a friend, a family member, or someone you trust.  There are also a number of services available to support you, such as;
Jigsaw - jigsawonline.ie
Pieta House - pieta.ie/contact
Mental Health Ireland - info@mentalhealthireland.ie 
and several others which can be found on the HSE website .

Stay strong.