This comes due to an increase in students requesting counselling services in recent times and it has been noted that it could take up to six to eight weeks for a student to receive the service in the current system. The new scheme entails that, during peak times of students requesting counselling services, applicants on the waiting list will be emailed and offered counselling externally, but the cost would be reimbursed by UCD.
Students’ Union Welfare Officer, Michael Gallagher, believes this is a very positive move by UCD to help students, especially around this time of year, when the number of applicants tends to rise: “It definitely is kind of seasonal and to leave out some of that pressure, where students who are on the waiting list are offered to see external counsellors, and to have their costs reclaimed, I think is absolutely vital.”
The external counsellors offered by UCD have all been approved by the Health Centre and there is no limit to students who can avail of this. As the external counsellors do not have the backlog that UCD counsellors do, students are seen almost straight away. In addition to this, Gallagher has proposed plans to distribute helpful packs on mental health to students who register for services.
The Health Centre has also recently introduced a new counsellor, Donal Kiernan, who particularly deals with alcohol issues. This has helped with the overflow of students looking for counsellors, and provided students with a more specialised counselling service. There are also plans by Gallagher to set up an alcohol support group in UCD for students who have alcohol issues, either themselves or are affected by alcoholism in their family.
The Student Union has also taken steps to help soften the problem of the long waiting lists by hiring a counsellor to assist students who are unsure if they need counselling, or for those who need counselling urgently. According to President of the Student’s Union, Rachel Breslin: “[the new] counsellor deals with students who are more of an urgent situation rather than an on-going situation… I think it has worked really well and it has certainly provided the back-up that the SU needs in order to offer a comprehensive welfare and mental service to students.”
However, due to the increasing demand, it seems clear that there needs to be a more long-term strategy put in place to deal with the waiting lists. Breslin adds, “It’s a good thing that people are feeling that they can talk to a counsellor, but it’s something that we definitely need to find a long term solution for.”