New measures being considered to support third-level students with mental health difficulties

Students want one-to-one presentations and mandatory awareness training for staff

Action is needed to tackle the increasing number of students experiencing mental health difficulties, according to a new report.

In the report launched by the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) and the National Learning Network (NLN), students outlined their desire for a review of current assessment methods.

Students with mental health difficulties revealed that oral presentations are very challenging, causing intense anxiety in some cases. Less stressful assessment methods, such as one-to-one presentations, were among the suggestions from students.

The ‘Mental Health Matters – Mapping Best Practices in Higher Education’ report was carried out to give a voice to students with mental health difficulties and to hear the experiences of professional staff in third level education. Twenty two Higher Education Institutions participated in the report.

Unreliable access to online lecture notes, the need for additional time, and a lack of understanding of reasons for absenteeism among staff are also listed as factors which affected students' mental well-being. 

Launching the report, Minister for Education Richard Bruton said: “I welcome this new and informative research by the National Learning Network and AHEAD. It is essential that we listen to the experiences of students and hear their voices in order to improve how we tackle mental health difficulties in our colleges.”

Ann Heelan, AHEAD Executive Director, said: "While the increasing number of students seeking help suggests there is less stigma round the issue, it also puts more pressure on stressed services.  Mental health difficulties are a real issue in colleges and it makes sense to acknowledge and address it head on."

Chief Executive of Rehab Group Mo Flynn called the concerns raised about assessment methods and absenteeism "very serious", but did not think they required an overhaul to the system.