The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is calling on all political parties to commit to mental health reform and suicide prevention before the General Election.
The number of students reporting mental health issues has increased, but as a result of hiring restrictions, most colleges can’t afford to hire extra counselling staff to meet the demand. 
 
Research by USI found that 73.1% of students said the high cost of college causes them anxiety or stress;.
 
Further research from the survey also showed that 71.7% of students regularly feel down, 36% of students feel down every day and a further 35.7% feel down every week. 
 
“Ireland has one of the highest levels of participation in third-level education within the EU, according to Careersportal’s 2013 Eurostat Figures,” explained Kevin Donoghue, USI President.
 
“The importance of promoting positive mental health among the large third-level student population cannot be underestimated, with research showing a high percentage of students experiencing mental health difficulties including depression, anxiety, loneliness, substance misuse and suicidal behaviour (Vision for Change, 2006)," he added.

Kevin also emphaised that an action plan for mental health promotion in third level is needed within the development and implementation of a Health Promoting College Network. 

"Waiting lists for counselling can be up to six weeks, which raises serious concerns for students in distress. Crisis response should be urgent and 24/7 – waiting a month and a half is harmful for anyone in need of support," Donoghue said.
 
According to studies by ReachOut, 63% of students reported that lecture attendance has been affected by their mental ill-health. ReachOut also found that 15% of students rated their mental health as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.
 
USI have stated that the next Government should produce a detailed, time-lined Action Plan to continue the reform of mental health supports and improve the mental health of the whole population, ensuring that adequate funding and the structures for good governance and oversight of the plan are in place. 
 
“We are urging the Government to increase funding given specifically for the provision of adequate counselling services to all third level students, either through the direct employment of more counsellors, or in purchasing external counselling session hours,” Donoghue explained.
 
“The next Government should deliver more funding to Higher Education Institutions, specifically allocated for counselling staff and mental health services,” he concluded.