- Lifestyle & Sports
- 13 Oct 21
USI’s Somhairle Brennan offers some pointers on how to cope with the stresses of college.
It’s inarguable that students have had a rough go of it during the pandemic, especially those making the transition from secondary school to college. Having been stripped of their ability to socialise with peers, and relegated to online lectures and classrooms, the pressure to suddenly become a proactive learner can have an adverse effect on the mental health of students.
According to the Union of Students in Ireland’s Vice President of Welfare Somhairle Brennan, there is a dire need for further funding for higher education mental health supports, and more stable and clear plans for how to allocate that funding.
“Obviously, at the beginning of the pandemic, we welcomed that the Government allocated more funding specifically for higher education student supports, but that was reactionary,” says Brennan. “It was a result of the pandemic, but there was a need for that funding anyway, and it needs to stay in place moving forward.”
However, Somhairle says there are still many options for students who feel like they’re struggling, and here gives his top pointers for minding your mental health during college...
Seek out your college counselling services – they’re usually free.
“Most colleges will have some kind of counselling service that students can avail of free of charge. Accessing this is normally quite simple. It’s a case of going on to their website and googling the relevant counselling service within your college. Then in some cases it’s sending an email, and others it's filling out online forms.”
Locate local services that are tailored to your needs.
“There are universal services, and there are ones that are tailored to specific issues, and that vary from campus to campus and college to college.
“If a student is struggling with a non-consensual sexual experience, they can always reach out to a local rape crisis centre. They can also reach out to their GPs, because they will be able to advise on what supports are available locally.
“Or, if a student is struggling with an eating disorder, they can reach out to BodyWhys, who will be able to advise them more specifically on those issues. It is very much case-dependent, but there are so many supports available.”
Talk to your peers and get involved in campus social groups.
“Isolation and removal from society as a result of the pandemic means people are a lot more solitary. Students, specifically, weren’t able to have those natural, day-to-day social interactions that in a normal time would perhaps go unnoticed.
“In many cases, someone could just be looking for that informal support. Getting involved in campus social groups and societies could be the affirmation a student needs.”
Drop into or contact your Student Union.
“This is something I would advise a lot of students and my peers. Their local student union is one of their most valuable assets when it comes to getting support with anything, but specifically for mental health. Getting in contact with their local student union will give them a peer-to-peer experience of minding their mental well-being.
“It can be another channel of support, and a really holistic way to know that you have people on your side. Particularly for people who are unsure that their mental health issues are serious enough to seek professional help.
“The local Student Union will also be able to see early on if the student’s mental health is rippling into their college work, or causing them to struggle with the academic side of things.
“With the return to campus, SUs are gradually beginning to operate a more open-door policy. Students will be able to knock on the door and get that form of gentle, informal support, rather than feeling like they have to push themselves. This could be really useful for students who experience anxiety, for example.”
Know that minding your mental health is important, and a good thing.
“Getting support should be seen as a positive thing. There should never be a case where someone feels like they aren’t in a position to avail of services.”
For more information, visit usi.ie or reach out to your campus student union.