Minister for Higher and Further Education Simon Harris has announced a €5 million financial package to support student mental health and wellbeing.
It marks a €3 million funding increase due to the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the upcoming academic year due to COVID-19. €2 million was originally set aside to support student mental health and wellbeing in further and higher education for 2020.
The €5 million package will be used for, according to the Department of Higher and Further Education:
- recruit additional Student Counsellors
- recruit additional Assistant Psychologists
- implementation of the Framework for Consent in HEIs; Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive: Ending Sexual Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions
- implementation of the soon to be published National Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework
Minister Harris said that the "isolation and uncertainty" with regard to the coronavirus pandemic has lead to this package being brought forward.
"The number one health issue for young people in Ireland today is concerns or worries around their mental health. These concerns have been compounded by the isolation and uncertainly brought forward by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"For students, the college experience has been different this year from ever before. Students have had to adjust to remote learning and carried out without face to face support from their college or their peers.
"For these reasons, I have sought to support student counselling services, key mental health interventions and the provision of a safe, respectful, supportive and positive environment in our higher education institutions.
"This will help us support students as they return to college in this COVID-19 world."
Dr Alan Wall of the Higher Education Authority
"This additional support being provided by the Minister is a welcome boost to a higher education sector that enrols in the region of 55,000 new students each year.
"These young and not-so-young students engage in higher education at a sometimes-challenging time of change and progression in their lives.
"This is a sizeable proportion of our population, and while our health and community services work to support everyone, there can be environmentally specific or transitional issues that arise for both current and new students in higher education."