With waiting lists for the counselling service in the Student Health Service now extending up to eight weeks, an external counselling group have been brought in to help cope with the increased demand on the service.
In his report to UCD Students’ Union Council, SU Welfare Vice-President Mícheál Gallagher commented that: “Working closely with the President and the Director of Student Services, I’m happy with the progress we’re currently making in finding creative solutions to the issues surrounding the UCD counselling service waiting list.”
The University has purchased 240 hours of counselling from the external provider, to aid the current counsellors in working their way through the list, in a move Gallagher hopes will “alleviate pressure on the waiting list.” As most students who make an appointment with the counselling service will be booked in for a series of four sessions over a number of weeks, it is hoped that these hours will cater for around 60 students.
The external counsellors began seeing students just over a week ago, and all sessions are being held on campus, rather than at the company’s own practices. Speaking to the University Observer, Gallagher was keen to note that students must still make appointments through the UCD Counselling Service, and they will be added to the waiting list, as has been the standard practice for a number of years. He explained: “This service is helping take some students off the waiting list. The current counselling service continues to operate at normal, and I’d like to take this opportunity to commend them for their great work this year.”
Gallagher emphasised how important an issue this is for students. He stated: “In regards to the counselling services long waiting lists isn’t an ideal situation. It is my firm belief that students who identify themselves as being in need for mental health issues need seen to as quickly as possible.”
He believes that this is something all parties involved, from the Counselling Service to University Management to relevant officers in the Students’ Union monitor these waiting lists closely and ensure assistance is provided at peak times of the year for the Counselling Service, such as around October and November, and in the lead up to the exam periods. He went on to say: “Furthermore, UCD mental health policy should reflect that having students seen in a timely manner is a top priority.”
This addition to UCD’s counselling service provisions is just one of a number of moves brought in this year help reduce waiting lists in this key area, with the Students’ Union bringing in an alcohol counsellor specifically to cater to students with issues in this area, to help take some pressure off the waiting lists and provide a more specialised service around an issue that effects many students.