More than 1,000 NUI Galway students availed of the university’s student counselling service last year.
Some 60 per cent of its 1,143 clients were women, according to its annual report for the academic year 2013/2014, just published.
Traditionally males do not avail of counselling to the same extent as females, outlines Bea Gavin, the service’s head of counselling.
“So the figure for the number of males who attended indicates a positive upward change in this regard as it correlates closely with the overall NUI Galway student population which is 44 per cent male and 56 per cent female.”
Anxiety (32 per cent ) topped the list of presenting issues (in order of frequency ), followed by depression (17 per cent ), relationships (11 per cent ), academic matters (10 per cent ), self and identity issues (seven per cent ), and loss (four per cent ). Although academic concerns were fourth on the list of presenting matters almost all client issues had a negative impact on academic performance, the report outlines.
The majority of clients (78 per cent ) were undergraduates while 19 per cent were post graduates.
The average age of clients was 24 years but students accessing the service came from a wide range of ages. One fifth were under 20 while 65 per cent were in the 20 to 29 age group. Ten per cent were aged 30 to 39 years while fewer than one per cent were more than 64 years.
Most of the service’s clients (53 per cent ) were students of the arts, social sciences and Celtic studies programmes. Fifteen per cent were studying science, 13 per cent - business, public policy and law while 11 per cent were studying medicine, nursing and health sciences.
Prior to counselling almost a quarter of students who contacted the service were considering dropping out of their course but post counselling that figure had dropped to eight per cent, according to the annual report.
Similarly, 66 per cent of students presenting at the first session disclosed that their problems were affecting their attendance, their study and assignments most of the time or often. Post counselling only 33 per cent of students were in that position.
“This is a significant contribution to retention and to increased productivity in the academic sphere and the impact of counselling on the overall college experience was also significant,” reveals the report.
“Pre counselling, 69 per cent of students disclosed that their problems were impacting most of the time or often on their overall college experience and post counselling this decreased to 36 per cent.”
Clients who received counselling had a reduced risk of suicide, the study points out. A total of 64 per cent were considered severely at risk, pre counselling. Seventy-three per cent were at moderate risk while 60 per cent were mildly at risk.
However, post counselling the percentage considered severely at risk had dropped to 35 per cent with the other categories respectively falling to 26 and 40 per cent.
During the 2013/2014 academic year 54 students, 34 of whom were female, were deemed to be at particular risk of suicide or self-harm. Risk criteria included suicide ideation (46 ), a past suicide attempt (22 ), mental health issues (39 ), experiencing or at risk of a mental breakdown or crisis/lack of support (13 ), misuse of drugs or alcohol (10 ), academic problems (15 ), and recent trauma or crisis. Last year 11 students were assessed as severe suicide risks, 27 as moderate risk and 18 as mild risk. Several students were put on the risk list more than once during the year.