Over half a million euro in funding for the wellbeing and mental health of Cork students was announced today by the Minister for Higher and Further Education Simon Harris.
The €5 million national package, with €270,000 allocated to UCC and €234,000 allocated to CIT, is intended to support students in the return to college this September through the recruitment of additional student counsellors and assistant psychologists and the implementation of the Framework for Consent.
The mental health concerns of young people “have been compounded by the isolation and uncertainty brought forward by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Minister Harris said.
According to the 2019 USI National Student Mental Health Survey, a fifth of students in Ireland did not have someone to talk to about personal and emotional difficulties. The levels of anxiety, depression and stress experienced by students were considered ‘extremely severe’ by the report.
The newly announced funding comes at a time of great urgency, and atop an already strained system where the national average is one counsellor per every 2,600 students.
“It was amazing to hear that there is a commitment from Minister Harris to fund Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Services,” UCCSU Welfare Officer Jamie Fraser told the Express. “After putting significant pressure on TDs and Ministers for the last few weeks here in UCCSU we are delighted to see this come through.”
“To see the specific details of how said monies will be distributed is extremely encouraging,” he said. “However, we are hoping we don’t see a repeat of what happened last year with the 2 million being put into the dark until significant pressure was being put on the government.”
“We are proud to have worked so hard to start the dialogue here in UCC regarding this funding and seeing something we started from the ground, grow to a national level and be implemented by Minister Harris.”
The implementation of the Framework for Consent in colleges is also supported by the funding announced today. This framework seeks to introduce a reporting system for incidents of violence and harassment, facilitate targeted initiatives such as UCC’s Bystander Intervention Training and maintain a working group like UCC’s own University Task Force.
Dr. Emer Clifford, UCC’s newly appointed Sexual Violence Framework Project Manager, commented on the news of funding “being unequivocally welcomed across the sector.”
“Now more than ever before students’ mental health and wellbeing are of utmost concern and must be prioritised, particularly as we approach a new and uncertain academic year, where there will be less campus engagement and increased time spent behind closed doors,” Dr. Clifford said.
“Being mindful and respectful of one another is key to having a positive student experience and in this regard, I urge everyone to undertake prosocial training such as the Bystander Intervention Programme and Active Consent.”
“Students need to know that support is always available and that there is no stigma in reaching out to seek help. For anybody reading this that is going through a difficult time, please reach out today; nobody should bear such burden alone.”