Praise for 'Irish Independent' on student mental health report
We are writing in response to the recent set of articles published specific to student health and well-being. In particular Ms Crawford's article that identifies that anxiety has overtaken depression as the greatest concern facing university students.
We commend the Irish Independent for highlighting the problem of student mental health, particularly because it has wide-reaching consequences, not only in relation to general health, but also for student lifestyle and behavioural choices, on academic achievement and on student retention.
In a large study (1,104 student respondents), we recently identified that four out of every 10 students were experiencing levels of psychological distress indicative of poor mental health. Of greater concern was that few students were willing or able to seek help or to access support services.
While the report from the Student Counselling Service cited by Ms Crawford is heartening to some degree, our research indicates that many students are experiencing significant psychological distress and yet are not availing of support.
Reluctance to admit to experiencing distress, which they associated with weakness, was a key factor. In our research, students also identified fears of stigma, poor resilience and poor help-seeking skills.
It is also noteworthy that student coping mechanisms were often maladaptive and included poorer dietary choices and substance use/misuse (alcohol, tobacco and cannabis).
Addressing mental health issues in higher education is not only about normative service provision. Higher education services need more in-depth understanding of the complexities of student attitudes to their mental health and well-being. Services need to be responsive to student voices and offered in a manner that facilitates student access without fear of stigma.
However, it is the overall context of higher education that is also at issue.
Universities need to become supportive, empowering and healthy places where students (and indeed staff) can develop personally, socially and intellectually.
Given the recent media coverage of the challenges facing higher education students, and the insights from our own data, never has the need for health-promoting universities been more pressing.
Christine Deasy and Patricia Mannix McNamara
University of Limerick
Archbishop's warning ignored
Once again Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin shows remarkable leadership by issuing a "wake up call" to fellow Catholics in respect of school patronage (November 9).
I salute his efforts in respect of greater plurality in school patronage.
Three years ago the Department for Education undertook a massive patronage survey in the greater Killarney area. As part of the consultation, the department stated that there was no need for an additional school in the area and that one of the existing Catholic schools would have to be divested.
A few people, like myself, argued that a new school could be established on VEC land for those not wanting a Catholic education. We were clearly told that the numbers did not warrant this and yet in the meantime existing schools have had permission to build many additional classrooms.
My one regret is that Killarney's national schools did not force the issue by refusing to expand. I believe that by allowing the expansion of national school places in the greater Killarney area the church has built future problems for itself and refused to heed the archbishop's "wake up call".
There is a real need for meaningful consultation with local people. As a parent I want to see the enhancement of Catholic education but not to the detriment of choice for families who expressed a desire for alternative provision.
Killarney, Co Kerry
Religion teaches tolerance
I write in response to Ian O'Doherty's article 'Too much religion puts us bottom of the class' (Review, November 7).
Firstly, the argument that religious instruction somehow has a drastic detrimental impact on a child's education is highly flawed.
Having worked in various schools since qualifying as a primary school teacher, religious instruction is never given precedence over subjects like English and maths, and half-an-hour instruction does not take place every day.
The only time religious instruction may be intensified is in 2nd class and in 5th or 6th, when preparing for sacraments, but at that, only in the weeks before, or in instalments throughout the year.
My primary objections with his article, however, were his frequent referral to religious instruction as the 'teaching of fairy tales', his assertion that religious instruction is a 'criminal waste of time and intellect', and his blanket labelling of parents desiring a Catholic education for their child as 'lazy or deranged'.
Using derogatory terms in reference to people, or beliefs deemed sacred to many, does nothing to promote empathy, understanding, or tolerance. I may not believe in what Hindus or Muslims do, but knowing how sacred my beliefs are to me teaches me respect for those of others even when I don't agree with them. I can empathise on those grounds, an attitude that good religious education can cultivate; science, despite how important it is, cannot.
Furthermore, a progressive society isn't just measured by intellectual or economic success, but by how its people are treated. If there's no tolerance, then it's not really a progressive society.
The agenda some have of removing every last vestige of religious education from schools is nonsensical given the pluralistic society we live in. Surely, when education, by its very nature, is intended to dispel ignorance and build understanding, some form of religious instruction should always have a place in schools.
Leitrim Village, Carrick-on-Shannon
Our dubious Constitution
Myanmar is not the only country with a dubious constitution. Our constitution permits schools of a Catholic ethos to teach Catholicism for half-an-hour a day.
The State (our taxes) pays the teachers to do this. Non-Catholics (who have gained a place in the school) are invited to "opt out" for the half-hour (8pc of their time spent in the school that day) and not receive any instruction or teaching.
This is indoctrination being peddled by the state as education.
Fumbally Exchange, Dublin