By Áine Kenny
The NUI Galway Student Counselling Service delivered counselling to 1,427 students in the academic year of 2017/18, according to their annual report.
This was an increase of 58 students, and a four percent increase on the previous year.
62 percent of clients were female, 37 percent were male and less than one percent were transgender or gender fluid.
78 percent of those attending counselling were undergraduates, 19 percent were postgraduates, one percent were on the Access programme, and two percent were undergraduate repeats.
44 percent of attendees were from the College of Arts, Social Science and Celtic Studies. 18 percent were in the College of Science. 14 percent were from the College of Business, Public Policy and Law. Nine percent were from the College of Engineering and Informatics.
12 percent of those attending the service were from the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. One percent were from Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, and one percent were from Access.
Anxiety was the most common reason why students attending counselling, with depression being the second. Other issues students were facing included relationship problems, academic difficulties, loss, self and identity, abuse and addiction.
11 students were assessed as a severe suicide risk and 34 students were at moderate risk of suicide.
The report noted the high success rate of counselling in retaining students and improving grades.
96 percent of students who attended 5 Distillery Lane said that counselling helped them stay in college. 97 percent of students said that counselling helped them do better in their academic work.
97 percent said attending sessions had improved their self-esteem, and 98 percent said that the service helped them feel more positive about the future.
The anonymous comments from the service users in the report were very positive: “I had experienced severe trauma but the centre gave me so much support. I cannot express how it helped to turn my situation around”, “counselling helped me stay off drugs and stay in college” and “thank you for all your help through this difficult time, you have made a huge difference and I really appreciate it” are just some of them.
However, the report was highly critical about the persistent lack of funding and space allocated to the counselling service.
The average waiting time for ongoing counselling appointments last year was 17.7 days. There was an increase of four days in waiting times for first available counselling appointment post drop in/assessment.
“It is important to bear in mind that for much of the college year there was a significant waiting list for counselling and the demand outstripped the capacity of the service to deliver, especially in the six weeks prior to examinations each semester, a time when student support is most important to ensure retention and progression,” the report stated.
The report recommends a “major reconsideration of the scale of the actual service” in order to provide for “increasing numbers of students with complex mental health difficulties.”
The report also highlighted that NUI Galway aims to increase the percentage of students from non-traditional pathways to 24 percent of the student population. Currently, non-traditional students make up 22 percent of the population.
“However, the numbers of students from non-traditional pathways attending the Student Counselling Service last year was 43 percent of our total client numbers, which demonstrates the additional support needs of these students,” the report outlined.
If you have been affected by the contents of this article, the Student Counseling Service is located at 5 Distillery Road (near AIB bank, Newcastle Road). Their phone number is 091 492484 and their email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Samaritans can be called 24/7 on 116 123.