UP TO 1,000 students at the University of Limerick are expected to avail of counselling services this year, but students say a lack of funding is leaving counsellors struggling to cope with demand.
Colin Clarke, president of the UL students’ union, said mental health is a mounting crisis and a huge area of concern in universities.
“The statistics speak for themselves - UL students will face a possible wait of up to three weeks for an appointment with the counselling service mid semester. This is completely unacceptable,” he said.
“In 2009 UL had 503 students who sought help from our counselling service, this increased to 879 in 2014 and is expected to reach 1000 this year. Despite this there has been no substantial increase in resources or funding leaving our counselling services struggling to cope.”
ULSU is calling on the Minister for Health and the Minister for Education & Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, to collaborate in making mental health in universities a priority for October’s budget.
The union says funding needs to be secured for counselling services in universities and “we need to ensure that responsibility for this area is distinguished between the HEA and the HSE”.
“Frankly the funding which is being given is not sufficient. We should be investing in our young people’s futures by investing in their mental health,” said Mr Clarke.
He said campaigns such as ‘Please Talk’ have been effective in encouraging people to open up more about their mental health, but the counselling services which they then turn to are understaffed, underfunded and face growing waiting lists every day.
“We are systematically failing young people who are being encouraged to seek help and advice, only for them to be turned away and faced with ever mounting waiting lists,” he concluded.