The University Observer has been told that there are currently 194 students on a waiting list to see a UCD counsellor and that “the waiting list is the highest it’s ever been for a number of years.” Welfare Officer Eoghan Mac Domhnaill has said “the counselling service are doing their very best to get to as many people as they can…[but] if I was to refer anyone [now], they’re not going to be seen before Christmas.”
The counselling service is available free of charge to UCD students. When seeking counselling, students are categorised as ‘standard,’ ‘priority,’ or ‘emergency.’ Out of the 194 students currently on the waiting list, Mac Domhnaill says that over 20 are priority cases.
For students on the waiting list, priority cases will be seen first, and Mac Domhnaill says it is likely that “some people will be waiting until next semester. It’s difficult to see how the counselling service will be able to accommodate 194 people in 2 weeks.”
Mac Domhnaill emphasises that emergency cases will still be seen. “If there is someone in dire straits…they can be seen on the day.” Emergency counselling can be accessed by going to “the welfare officer, the student advisor, the chaplaincy, the access centre, and the health service.”
Students who are on the waiting list for more than two weeks can be referred to external counselling services, but similar waiting list scenarios can also be encountered here as “they are still moving through everyone at the same rate.”
In plans UCDSU are making to alleviate the waiting list for counselling, Mac Domhnaill says they are hoping to collaborate with Pieta House. “Pieta House are offering, should UCD students call up Pieta House that they would be given a priority referral, so that they could avail of Pieta House services…[which are located] in Dublin City centre.”
Mac Domhnaill is skeptical that possible budget increases would “alleviate the problems that we are seeing at the moment…It would take a considerable increase in the budget.” Nevertheless, he says that “It’s an increase that we will need to see over the next few years and the SU will always be calling on and that we have advocated for already this year in various meetings.”
For students looking for help, they can see Mac Domhnaill “in the office and the SU has a list of external counsellors as well. We do our best to liaise with the [UCD] counselling service.” Mac Domhnaill also advises students to look at “external sources, at the likes of Pieta House and Samaritans, who are phenomenal.” The second semester will see UCDSU re-joining nightline, a telephone hotline for students needing to talk “so that there is over the phone, during the night service, for UCD students who just want someone to chat to at night.”