News and Views
UCC launches mental health strategy
The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD today launched UCC’s Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy. The strategy aims to create a needs-led integrated support structure across campus and externally, to offer students the right care, in the right place, at the right time.
UCC has identified implementation of this strategy as a core institutional objective, which will be enabled by the allocation of €375,000 in Government funding. The immediate priorities of the strategy are to coordinate existing resources, diversify the range of supports for students and to increase capacity by appointing additional student counselling and other mental health resources.
The 3 year project, will develop a whole new vision for Student Mental Health in UCC, and emerged via collaboration between the UCC Student Union and the Director of Student Experience, Paul Moriarty, and builds on the existing work of Student Counselling & Development, under Fiona Kennedy, and the Student Health Department, under Dr Michael Byrne.
Launching the Strategy, Minister Simon Harris TD commented; “With increased numbers of students attending third level institutions and a more diverse student body, it is crucial Student Mental Health and Wellbeing are prioritised and championed. Students are one of the highest risk groups of the population when it comes to developing a Mental Health condition and the COVID pandemic is predicted to exacerbate this issue”.
Commenting further on the strategy, Minister Harris stated; “I was really pleased to see that the strategy aims to promote both wellness in the student body, as well as providing effective treatment to those who need it, through internal supports and coordination with external supports”. He described his department as “a willing partner” and commended the intention in UCC to “respond in a targeted, holistic, student-led and staff-led way.”
Commenting on the new funding, Dr Michele Hill, Psychiatrist and University Lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing stated “It is most welcome to have student mental health receive the attention it deserves. However, it is crucial that this new investment is used to build a sustainable multidisciplinary structure of supports across campus and externally, so that all students can access the care they need in a timely fashion. UCC have committed to a staging model to support students, which helps identify gaps in offerings and what areas or additional staff need to be prioritised.”
Professor Patrick McGorry, from Australia, a world-leading clinician, researcher, and reformer in the areas of early intervention and Youth Mental Health, referred to the “hidden health problem” in third-level education and commented “the systems to respond to it are cloaked in a veil of Wellbeing, which is helpful in a positive Mental Health sense, but it does cover up the reality of significant Mental ill-health amongst the students. Systems need to be modernised, better resourced and linked to specialist services… A staging model is the way forward, but we have to make sure that we address the needs of the more complex and serious forms of mental illness.”
Commenting Professor John O’Halloran, President of UCC stated, “We have a strong history of successful initiatives in the area of Mental Health here in UCC and are invested in supporting this timely call for a whole institutional approach to Student Mental Health in reaching its full potential.”
The Student Union will host an event to celebrate the launch of the Strategy next week on campus. An Open Mic event with the Music Society and staff from the Mental Health Working Group will take place, with students performing pieces about their experiences during the pandemic, and staff describing the supports currently in place on campus.