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Colleges face up to crisis in mental health

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Students with suicidal thoughts are presenting at counselling services in Galway’s third level institutes ‘every second day’.

The country’s third level counsellors’ association says its members are encountering a “tsunami of students presenting with mental health problems”, at NUI Galway and GMIT.

The Irish Association of University and College Counsellors (IAUCC), says that its services are partly snowed-under because the Health Service Executive (HSE) – who should be providing counselling – is making referrals of people with mental health difficulties to its services.

Dr Declan Aherne of IAUCC, and Head of Counselling at University of Limerick, said counselling services across the country including Galway’s two third level institutes – NUIG and GMIT – have lengthy waiting lists as suicide and mental health remains a huge issue among young people. This is at a time when third level colleges are facing budget cutbacks and recruitment embargoes.

Dr Aherne says society has ‘lost its way’ since the fall-off in trust in the Catholic church, and the collapse of the Celtic Tiger, which has contributed to the explosion in mental health problems and suicide.

“When the Church was gone we lost our way . . . people are asking ‘what’s it all about?’ The recession has had an effect, too. People lost hope after the Celtic Tiger collapsed. They had something to aspire to and a purpose even if that was just about money and to be rich and famous. That’s gone now and people are lost,” he said.

Dr Aherne added: “We’re getting referrals from the HSE from people who need access to mental health services and who are being sent to us because the HSE doesn’t have the services to deal with them. Five years ago we had maybe 500 students a year. Now we’re over 1,000. We have 60 on a waiting list. That’s the same in Galway – it’s right across the board. It’s both good and bad: For years we were saying to people ‘come and talk to us’. Now we’re forced to say ‘come and talk to us but you’ll have to join the queue’.”

The students who present with suicidal thoughts, he said, are encountering the same difficulties as everybody else, it’s just that their coping mechanism isn’t as effective.

He said that some students are suicidal because they don’t have the “resilience to cope with life” for a variety of reasons including a lack of a support structure or breakdown of the family.

“Every second day we have students presenting with suicidal thoughts. Ten years ago that was unheard of – now it is every second day.”

Dr Aherne made the comments on the eve of IAUCC’s annual conference in Galway this weekend. The 20th annual anniversary of the association took place in Salthill Hotel this week..

The conference opening address was given by Kieran Loftus who is the Executive Director of Operations, NUIG and Michael Hannon, GMIT Registrar. The conference heard calls for the HSE to provide counselling drop-in centres in the community – based on the sort of services offered by third level institutes – to tackle the problem of suicide and mental health in the wider community.

Students can log on to pleasetalk.ie to find a range of relevant contact details including Samaritans (091-561222 or 1850-60-90-90) or Pieta House (093-25586).

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council to ‘review’ Kirwan junction

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Councillors are demanding proof that the €5 million spent to transform Kirwan Roundabout into a signalised junction was money well spent – blasting the new junction as having created long delays and worsening rat-running.

A meeting of the local authority last week heard that while there was a general acceptance there would be ‘teething problems’ with the traffic-light junction after it became operational in July, ongoing issues were continuing to draw the ire of road users and local residents.

Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind) said he was one of five councillors on the previous Council to initially vote against the removal of the roundabout, based on fears that it would increase traffic through local residential areas – a fear that had been realised.

“What changes have been needed to be done since it went live,” asked the former Mayor, indicating that there had been little improvement.

Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) said he understood that enhancement works were being done, but more were required.

“A lot of drivers are avoiding it and its driving traffic through the likes of Terryland Business Park. The Tuam Road is now gridlocked,” he said, calling on the Council to do a “PR exercise” to encourage drivers back to Kirwan.

Cllr Clodagh Higgins (FG) said the junction continued to confuse people and suggested that “overhead hanging signs” would be of assistance.

Green Party Councillor Niall Murphy said when the roundabout was slated for removal, it was promised that delays would be reduced by 25% and rat-running by 90% – but as yet, no evidence had been provided to show this.

“We need to put some science on this.

“The rat-running has moved to Dyke Road and there are some sections of that road where there are no footpaths, so it is quite dangerous for pedestrians,” said Cllr Murphy.

Acting Director of Services for Transport, Uinsinn Finn, told the meeting he believed there was a silent majority that were satisfied with the new junction.

He said that the junction’s ‘go live’ date was July 19, which coincided with the reopening of many parts of society that had been in lockdown due to Covid, and that had contributed to additional traffic.

“The first two objectives were to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, and those objectives have been achieved.

“There will be a post project review – that is something that we always do and I would be happy to bring that back to Council for its consideration,” said Mr Finn.

Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath confirmed that review was set to get underway.

“It will go through the various elements and if issues arise following the review, they will be addressed,” he said.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Thieves target cars as owners unload shopping bags

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Galway shoppers have been advised by Gardaí not to leave their vehicles unlocked or unattended as they bring their shopping into their homes.

This follows reports in the Newcastle area of opportunist thieves ‘striking’ as the shopping bags were being moved into houses.

One resident told the Galway City Tribune that the thieves waited until the person had taken a bag of shopping from their cars to bring into their home.

“This gives the thieves a minute or two to have a quick look in the car – what they seem to be looking for are purses, bags or wallets that are left behind in the car,” the resident stated.

He added that some of local residents had notices two ‘youngish lads’ – possibly in their late teens or early 20s – hanging around the Newcastle Park Road area over the past week or two.

“I just think that people need to be on their guard for this kind of opportunist theft. They just wait until the driver goes inside the house with the shopping and before they come back out, they do a quick search of the car,” he said.

Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that opportunist thieves would always be ‘on the look out for a handy theft’.

“What I would advise is that either have someone to keep an eye on the car when the shopping is being removed – or else lock the car each time, and don’t leave any cash or valuables in the vehicle.

“It might be an inconvenience to lock the car each time you go back into the house, but it is still far better than having something stolen from your vehicle,” said Sgt Walsh.

He also urged, that as a matter of routine, no one should leave any valuables in their cars when they parked them up.

“Even the coins that some people keep in car pockets for parking or other small payments can attract thieves. Never leave anything of value in your vehicles,” he said.

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Connacht Tribune

Boil water notice issued for Barna area

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A boil water notice has been issued for the Barna area for health protection purposes

The areas affected are Barna Village, Truskey West and Truskey East, Barr Aille, Fermoyle, Ballard and along the Connemara Coast Road as far as Furbo, and on the Barna/Galway Road as far as Silverstrand.

The notice has been put in place due to issues with disinfection of the water at Tonabruckey Reservoir.

The notice affects approximately 2,300 people supplied by the Barna section of the Galway City West Public Water Supply area.

Customers in the area served by Tonabrucky Reservoir will notice increased levels of chlorine in their water supply in the coming days as we work to resolve the issue.

Vulnerable customers who have registered with Irish Water will receive direct communication on this Boil Water Notice.

Irish water, the City Council and the HSE will monitor the supply and will lift the notice when it is safe to do so.

In line with HSE Covid-19 advice and the requirement for frequent hand washing, Irish Water advises that the water remains suitable for this purpose and boiling the water is not required.

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