New 24/7 text service to provide mental health supports for third level students
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, today launched a new text-based mental health support which will be available to all returning and new third level students.
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.
Minister Harris said: “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.
“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.
“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 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,” explained Gertie Raftery, chairperson of PCHEI.
"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,” said Ian Power, CEO of 50808 and Spunout.ie, a national youth wellbeing and information website.
“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."
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).
“We know that people are particularly vulnerable at transition points in their life, such as the move to third level. This initiative is a great example of true partnership working, between health and education, and importantly will provide 24 hour crisis support to students whenever they need it,” he said.
“This work is particularly aligned with our efforts in the HSE, to realise a wider suite of innovative and online mental health solutions. It is also aligned with our national strategy to reduce suicide, Connecting for Life, in which young people are identified as a key priority group.”
“Now more than ever, we rely heavily on strong cross-sectoral and interagency partnerships in order to make meaningful progress. We would like to thank the PCHEI, HEA and to 50808 for all their collaborative efforts in bringing this partnership project to launch today,” Mr Meehan added.
Speaking at the launch of the partnership, Lorna Fitzpatrick, president of the Union of Student in Ireland (USI), said: “It is really great to see this partnership launch today. The 50808 service is set to be a very valuable resource for students who may not be able to reach out to their counselling services on campus for various reasons. Student mental health is a priority for us all and ensuring students have access to someone to speak to when they are in need is so important.”
She continued: “Students come from a variety of backgrounds and living situations and have many competing priorities and a lot to juggle, so they need to have different types of services to engage with for support. USI and PCHEI have worked very closely over the past number of years, and we are delighted to be able to support this partnership too.”