Every year, the third Monday of January is dubbed “Blue” due to a variety of factors, including the poor weather, the stress of being back in College, post-Christmas money worries, and unhappiness over weight. Of all cohorts, students are particularly susceptible to stress and anxiety around this time. With a semester full of exams, college balls, and the pressure to plan for your summer or your future, you’d be hard-pressed not to feel a little blue.
According to joint research by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and the mental health support service ReachOut, 63 per cent of students report that their lecture attendance is disrupted by their poor mental health. Over 73 per cent of students attributed their high levels of anxiety and stress to the costs of college, which can be considered prohibitive when one factors in the student contribution charge, accommodation, high living costs, and the expense that socialisation entails. Nearly three quarters of students revealed that staying in college is a serious financial struggle.
While college may be an incredible time for many, for others it is a stressful, lonely experience.
While college may be an incredible time for many, for others it is a stressful, lonely experience, particularly when supports are not available or not sufficient to address individual needs. Dropping out of college is explicitly related to a lack of support: students feel overwhelmed by the costs of college prior to even starting, and then face a graduate future devoid of jobs or opportunities after three or four years of financial commitment. It’s not hard to imagine how an individual or their family may not have the resources to fund education, particularly when this education may be next to useless following graduation. Financial instability drives students out of college, as they start to weigh up whether the cost of their degree will equal the ultimate payoff, and determine that it will not.
USI states that support services have a direct impact on whether students stay in college. However, Trinity cannot be faulted for its supports, which make the best of a bad lot. In the face of uncertain and often inadequate governmental funding, the Student Counselling Service provides professional, confidential support to students, and is often lauded for the high quality of its services. College’s tutor system is unprecedented and provides students with a specific port of call on campus. Many of my own friends have seen their tutors go to extreme lengths to make allowances for them, accommodate their need for deadline changes or other support in academic affairs, and do their utmost to help students going through a difficult time. During term time, the Niteline listening service is also provided to students of Trinity as well as a number of other colleges, giving students anonymous and confidential support.
Trinity has the lowest dropout rate of any Irish university, with only 7 per cent of students not progressing to second year.
The support services are there, and many Trinity students use them. Trinity has the lowest dropout rate of any Irish university, with only 7 per cent of students not progressing to second year. Though the national average is as high as 11 per cent, Trinity is the only university to show improvement since the previous report in 2014. This is a deeply important achievement, one which should be lauded when considering Trinity as a whole. In all the furore about academic cuts, internationalisation of the College, and staff-student ratios, the truly consequential outcome is that Trinity has retained the capacity to support its students in times of need. A lot of recent discussion has centred around the poor quality of psychological services available in Ireland, with many claiming that Ireland’s high suicide rates for certain groups – such as young men – are due to inadequate safety nets. Certain structures are supposed to catch young people before something terrible happens, and yet in this most fundamental task many of them fail. Trinity’s mental health support services seem at odds to the rest of the country in that they actually accommodate and aid the students in their care.
Of course, support services can never be good enough – as long as one student struggles to access the help they need, then more can certainly be done. Nevertheless, this is a positive sign that Trinity is looking out for the mental health of the students in its care. While students may be struggling with the financial costs of university, at the very least they have a number of valuable, high-quality supports to help them during tough times.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article you can contact Trinity Counselling at (01) 8961407 and www.tcd.ie/Student_Counselling, Niteline at 1800 793 793 and niteline.ie, or Samaritans Ireland at 116 123.