The framework was developed by the SynthSCS project team from AIT - a 3Set work package.
Ireland’s first student mental health and suicide prevention framework aimed at improving the provision of student mental health services was launched today by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris.
The new national framework will help higher education institutes identify where further improvements for student mental health are needed, provide good practice guidance and resources, and help standardise approaches across the country.
The project, supported by the HEA Transformation and Innovation Fund, was developed in collaboration with students, mental health specialists and academics under the aegis of the SynthSCS project team from AIT - a 3Set work package.
3Set is a collaborative higher education project led by Trinity College Dublin and supported by University College Dublin and Athlone Institute of Technology, aimed at addressing increasing demand for student mental health services in higher education.
According to Treasa Fox, a counselling psychologist at Athlone Institute of Technology and SynthSCS project lead, the framework is key to identifying gaps in the suicide prevention in higher education, thereby improving student mental health services nationally.
“This framework emphasises that to effectively address higher education student mental health needs and prevent suicides we must adopt a whole system approach,” she explained. “Mental health and suicide prevention among students is not the responsibility of any one unit or department; it is a whole-of-campus responsibility.”
For the past 18 months, the SynthSCS project team has been investigating student mental health interventions and suicide prevention on campuses, innovative inter-agency collaborations, and international best practice guidance with the view to collating and categorising information and resources for use across Ireland’s higher education institutions.
Dr Deirdre Flynn, 3Set project lead and the director of counselling at Trinity College Dublin, says that the new national framework will provide a valuable resource for all HEIs to review and develop their mental health services for students.
“We know students are a high risk group for mental health difficulties because of their age. Research tells us that almost 75% of serious mental health conditions emerge between the ages of 15 and 25,” she explained. “This is an especially timely document given the enormous pressure students are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
At the launch, Minister Harris expressed concern at the impact of COVID-19 on young people’s mental health and stressed the importance of the framework in helping colleges to identify and respond to gaps in student mental health services.
“The number one health issue for young people in Ireland today remains concerns or worries around their mental health. These concerns have been compounded by the isolation and uncertainly brought forward by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“Mental health has been defined by the World Health Organization as ‘a state of wellbeing in which the individual recognises their own abilities and is able to cope with normal daily stresses in life. This framework builds on this premise and encourages our HEIs to act in nine specific areas – to lead, collaborate, educate, engage, identify, support, respond, transition and improve”.
The launch of the national framework coincides with World Mental Health Day - the theme of which is Mental Health for All – Greater Investment – Greater Access.
Athlone Institute of Technology is a research-led third level institute with an applied, industry-focussed offering, world-class research and development capabilities, and state-of-the-art facilities. Winner of The Sunday Times Institute of the Year 2020 and 2018, AIT is Ireland’s top-ranked institute and is on track to become the country’s next technological university. AIT tops Ireland’s official league table for research and was listed in U-Multirank’s Top 25 Performing Universities in the World for Interdisciplinary Research in 2018 and 2019. For information relating to the institute’s undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, visit www.ait.ie.