Thu, 24 Sep 2020

DUBLIN, Ireland - The Irish government on Monday launched a new text-based mental health support which will be available to all returning and new third level students in Ireland.

Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education Ireland (PCHEI) has partnered with 50808, a free, anonymous 24/7 text service, to provide the new mental health support service for third level students.

The text service partnership with PCHEI has been in development since March 2020.

"Students are our future leaders, politicians, entrepreneurs and business leaders, teachers, engineers, health staff, chefs, mechanics. Many of our science students will progress to careers where they develop new vaccines, so that we will have less risk from viruses such as the one we are valiantly trying to stem at present," Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris said Monday.

"They have endured so much. We now must take care of students' mental health as we have a duty of care to them."

"This partnership will be vital. It will offer students a lifeline at any hour of the day. It will be free and anonymous," Harris said.

"Our students need this service more than ever. I am also delighted that my Department was able to secure €5 million in funding for mental health services in our institutions of higher education, to ensure the ability of HEIs around the country to continue to provide assistance to students in need of help."

A recent USI report, National Report on Students and COVID-19, shows that almost 27% of students would use a text support service provided by the college, while 26% indicated that they would use a text support service facilitated externally.

Counsellors across the higher education sector say they are hopeful that 50808 will attract these students, who can text anonymously in a way that feels safe for them - maybe as a first step to further support.

"We're delighted to partner with 50808 so that our students have the option to engage with support, at the time they may immediately need it, and in a mode that is very comfortable and familiar to young people," Gertie Raftery, chairperson of PCHEI said Monday.

Ian Power, CEO of 50808 and Spunout.ie, a national youth wellbeing and information website added: "We're thrilled to be partnering with counselling services across the higher education sector in Ireland to provide an additional support to the suite of interventions available to students on campus."

"We know that mental health challenges are something we can experience at any time, day or night, and we're delighted to be working with PCHEI and their members to ensure a listening ear for college students both out-of-hours and during the college day itself.

50808 will be available to listen to what's going on for students 24/7 and provide immediate support in an effort to help students move forward, feel better and get access to further supports and services if required," added Power.

Targeted initiatives like 50808, which is funded by the HSE, are making mental health services more readily accessible to those in higher education, according to John Meehan, assistant director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP).

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