DIT students with mental health issues up 700% in four years
Efforts to address stigma over mental health issues among young people seen as paying off
The most recent statistics show that in the 2015/2016 academic year, DIT had 172 students identifying themselves as having a mental health condition. File photograph: Getty Images
The number of students registering with mental health issues at Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) has increased by 700 per cent in the past four years.
The sharp rise is regarded as a positive indicator that efforts to address the stigma surrounding mental health issues among young people are paying off.
“People wouldn’t have disclosed it five years ago. They are more aware now that they will get support,” said Dr Brian Gormley, head of campus life at DIT, which expects to take in some 4,500 new students this term.
The increase relates to those with a formally diagnosed mental health issue, registering with the disability service at DIT. The numbers presenting themselves to the college’s counselling service have also been increasing.
“When students are asked why they are attending counselling, they are much more likely to say they are attending because of a mental health issue, whereas in the past it might have been [explained as] a relationship issue or something like that,” said Dr Gormley.
“The key message around mental health is that there are people who can help them and they just need to ask.”
The most recent statistics show that in the 2015/2016 academic year, DIT had 172 students identifying themselves as having a mental health condition, through the Disability Access Route to Education (Dare) scheme. For the 2016/2017 year, that number has risen to 213, continuing the upward trend.
The Dare scheme is for school-leavers who have disabilities that have impacted negatively on their second level education, offering reduced points places in college.
The DIT counselling service saw the number of students attending rise from 628 in 2012 to 1,071 so far this year.
Here, the proportion of those identifying their problem specifically as mental health has also increased – from 55 per cent in 2012 to 87 per cent this year. That compares, this year, to 7 per cent raising academic issues, 5 per cent relationship difficulties and 1 per cent self-esteem or identity issues.
Dr Gormley said there are supports available in all third-level colleges, including counselling services, chaplains, student health centres, disability services and occupational therapists.
Although such statistics show an increase in the number of people flagging mental health concerns, they can also be interpreted as a normalisation of complex issues affecting young people, and increasingly a propensity to seek help.
Dr Tony Bates, founder of the Jigsaw service for youth mental health, said the statistics were a promising indicator that the battle against stigma was being won.