Thursday 19 September 2019

Minister 'offering vague solutions' to mental health crisis among students

Booked in: USI student member Lillian Searson, from the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dún Laoghaire, who contributed to the report. Photo: Conor McCabe Photography
Booked in: USI student member Lillian Searson, from the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dún Laoghaire, who contributed to the report. Photo: Conor McCabe Photography
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor has been accused of "offering sympathy" but "only vague solutions" to what has been described as a mental health crisis among college students.

The claim, from Fianna Fáil mental health spokesman James Browne, came after the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) published a report showing 38pc of students experience extreme levels of anxiety.

Higher Education Junior Minister Ms Mitchell O'Connor launched the report, saying she was "very concerned with its findings" - particularly how one-fifth of students said they didn't have anyone to talk to about their emotional difficulties.

Ms Mitchell O'Connor told an audience in Trinity College that she would share the report's recommendations with ministerial colleagues and work to ensure improvement of the support available.

She said this could involve funding. She didn't say how much, but said she always pushed for increased funds in talks ahead of the Budget.

USI president Lorna Fitzpatrick welcomed the minister's engagement, but also said the report's findings required action.

The USI wants an extra €100,000 for each third-level institution to fund support staff.

Mr Browne claimed that Ms Mitchell O'Connor's proposals were "vague" and she was "failing to grapple" with the "very serious reality" of a student mental health crisis.

Ms Mitchell O'Connor defended her record, saying she is working with the National Youth Mental Health Taskforce to ensure support is available for young people up to the age of 25.

Irish Independent

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