'Mental Health Matters' Report Suggests Training College Staff in Mental Awareness Can Be Beneficial


A report has suggested the urgent need to train full and part-time college staff in mental health awareness in order to meet the rising number of higher education students struggling with mental difficulties.

Ahead, the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability, looked at 22 higher education institutions (HEI) and found that about a third of college students aged 18 and 19 were having problems coping with the demands of higher education, reports The Times. Ahead said that while the number of students having such problems was increasing, the number of personnel capable of providing mental health services wasn't, and recommended mental awareness training for staff.

"Services such as counselling have been badly hit by reductions in staffing resulting in six month waiting lists in many institutions, and this at a time of a greatly increasing level of referrals to the service," the researchers wrote in the report titled, "Mental Health Matters - Mapping Best Practices in Higher Education." Researchers have found a 41% increase in the number of students seeking counselling.

The report said the use of oral presentations as a method of assessment needs to be reviewed as some of the students who were having trouble coping admitted that oral presentations are very difficult for them, and are causing them to be anxious and making them a "nervous wreck."

The report added that more support should be given to those students who are unable to attend class lectures.

Ahead's executive director, Ann Heelan, noted that mental health difficulties are a real issue in HEIs in Ireland. She added that students who often suffer from such difficulty often hide it, but if there was the right support given to them at the right time, they'd be able to cope pretty well.

Mo Flynn, chief executive of Ahead's parent organization Rehab, said that the issues raised by students in regards to mental health can easily be changed, and does not need a "major overhaul of the system" despite their seriousness.

"They can be easily changed and adapted to ensure that students struggling with mental health can reach their full potential," she said.

Education minister Richard Bruton said he welcomes the Ahead report, adding that the student's concerns needed to be heard in order for them to find better ways to handle mental health issues in colleges.

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