Student Mental Health Conference

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10:00 am - 4:45 pm

Gleeson Hall
DIT Kevin Street
Dublin 8

Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Students in Ireland

Convened by the IAUCC in DIT on the 3rd December 2012, the conference discussed the findings of the My World Survey, the first of its kind on youth mental health in Ireland, as well as providing a forum for student services to collaborate on college-wide strategies in response to the mental health needs of students. Over 160 participants attended, including staff and students from third level colleges nationwide, representing counselling, health, psychiatry, disability, chaplaincy, accommodation, peer support, students union, health promotion and other support and academic services.


Following an opening address from Dan Neville, TD and President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, UCD researchers Dr Barbara Dooley and Dr Amanda Fitzgerald presented in-depth analyses of the findings of a recent nationwide conducted by Headstrong Ireland on over 8,000 college students.


Insights from My World Survey

According to the findings, the top three stressors for young people in third-level education are college, money and work (My World Survey 2012). In real terms the survey points to the stark fact that:


In any given lecture hall of 100 students:


  • 43 have felt at some point that life is not worth living,
  • 21 have engaged in deliberate self-harm; 7 have attempted suicide
  • 40 suffer from depression; 38 suffer from anxiety
  • 61 are engaged in problem drinking, 10 of them being alcohol dependent



  • Ø The research highlighted that if young people have one good adult they can talk to, they have lower risk factors around mental health and higher levels of optimism, life-satisfaction and self-esteem.
  • Ø Nevertheless, 62% of young people reported that they would talk to someone if they had a problem, with males being less likely to do so than females. Suicide ideation, self-harm and suicide attempts are higher in young people who do not seek help or talk about their problems.
  • Ø In addition, students who identified sexual orientation as ‘bisexual’ or ‘unsure’ reported higher levels of distress than heterosexual students and much lower levels of protective factors such as social support and self-esteem.

Insights from College Counselling Services

In the academic year 2010-11 over 7,000 students attended counselling services within the universities and colleges that IAUCC represents.  Aggregated  data from these services confirm the results of the My World Survey; top presenting issues included depression and anxiety and other mental health issues, relationship distress, identity issues, self-injury (including suicide), addictions, etc as well as academic stress.

The conference closed with a Panel Discussion, chaired by Dr Noel O’Connor, Head of Student Services DIT and composed of representatives from the Irish Universities Association, the Students Union of Ireland, Confederation of Student Services Ireland, Headstrong and the IAUCC itself.  Several contributors expressed concern with the general lack of awareness by the wider academic community of the severity of student mental health issues, and called for a greater cross-campus, collaborative response to addressing student mental health difficulties. The discussion also highlighted the need for student support services to be adequately resourced  – an already on-going concern for the IAUCC, given the considerable shortfall in counselling resources available to meet demands on Student Counselling Services.


Presentations from the day are available below for download.

Dr. Amanda Fitzgerald’s presentation outlined the key descriptive statistics from the My World Survey

Dr. Barbara Dooley’s presentation delved deeper into the data, exploring key themes and findings


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