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).
FF colleagues row in behind Crowe in bid at Dáil seat
Galway City Councillor Ollie Crowe has announced that he is seeking a Dáil seat, as a running mate of sitting Fianna Fáil TD, Éamon Ó Cuív, in Galway West.
And the publican from Bohermore has already received the backing of his four colleagues on Galway City Council.
Cllr Peter Keane, who was rumoured to be interested in running, and Cllr John Connolly, who was unsuccessful in the 2016 election despite a decent showing, have both indicated their support for Ollie Crowe.
At a meeting between the five last Friday, Cllrs Connolly and Keane threw their weight behind Ollie Crowe, as did his brother, Mike Crowe and City East newcomer Alan Cheevers.
His name will now go forward to a selection convention, which will be held before the end of September, when Deputy O Cuív returns for the US. A third canddiate could also be added for gender balance.
Ollie Crowe has been a public representative for over a decade, and was elected to the City Council for the third time in May’s local elections. He said now was the time to ‘step-up’, having canvassed for others down through the years.
“I was a wingman for Michael John (Crowe) in 2007 and 2011, and again for John Connolly in 2016. I’ve been approached by a lot of people, including non-Fianna Fáil people, who have encouraged me to put my name forward and I’m heartened by that. I’d like to pay tribute to my four City Council colleagues, for allowing my name to go forward,” said Cllr Crowe, who has strong connections with Liam Mellows Hurling Club.
Fianna Fáil will have a city-based candidate, and Ollie Crowe has appealed for Fianna Fáil members to back his candidacy on the ticket.
He said Fianna Fáil has a ‘mammoth task’ on its hands to win back a second seat in Galway West for the first time since 2007 – but it was achievable.
“In the local elections, Fianna Fáil’s six candidates in the City Council won 4,849 first preference votes, and we took five seats and are the biggest grouping,” he said.
“Fianna Fáil won an additional 17 seats across the country in the locals, and Galway was exceptional in that we won an extra five – we went from three to five seats on the City Council and won three more on the County Council. It’s a huge constituency from Clifden to Clarinbridge, but I’m up for the challenge because I believe it is vital we put the people first.
“This is a Dublin-centred Government; and Limerick has benefitted from having a senior minister. In Galway, we don’t have a senior minister and if Fianna Fáil wins two seats, we will put serious pressure on the Taoiseach of the day to have a Galway representative at the Cabinet table,” he added.
Gardaí asked to monitor Tuam park for anti-social behaviour
Gardaí and Galway County Council have been asked to monitor a park in Tuam which has become a magnet for ‘unbecoming behaviour’ involving teenagers late at night.
One local councillor said he had been inundated with complaints over activities that are taking place in the Palace Grounds in Tuam after dark.
And Cllr Joe Sheridan wants both Gardaí and the local authority to monitor the area on a regular basis – specifically one of the park benches which has become a focal point for the teens.
“There are a lot of unsavoury antics going on,” the Fianna Fail councillor told the Connacht Tribune. “There are gangs of youths assembling there late at night.”
He said that there is a bench located within the view of those using the nearby swimming pool where a lot of the activities are taking place.
“There are teenagers who are assembling there on a regular basis and their behaviour is nothing short of shocking. I fear the worst for some of these young people that are involved.
“Even people walking the grounds are being harassed on a regular basis and that is why I want the area patrolled on a regular basis,” Cllr Sheridan added.
The issue also came before a meeting of Tuam Municipal Council when it was stated that the bench in question, located in one of Tuam’s scenic areas, has been described as an eyesore due to illegal dumping.
Cllr Colm Keaveney said that despite CCTV at both the Palace Grounds and at the bottle and clothes banks nearby, dumping persisted.
“It has become a domestic dump and I can’t understand why people are not being prosecuted. On Monday morning, it was overflowing with domestic waste. Surely we can find out who’s doing it and start prosecuting,” he said.
Cllr Sheridan supported his FF colleague adding that there was also a lot of anti-social behaviour and ‘unbecoming behaviour’ of young ladies and gentlemen taking place on the bench at the Palace Grounds.
He described this bench as the ‘centre point’ for late night gatherings and asked if this could be stopped. Council officials said that they would investigate the claims.
Galway author blessed with the write stuff!
A dark futuristic fairy tale about a woman and her electronic companions is the winner of a major short story contest by a former hardware salesman who only quit his job in Galway City to write 18 months ago.
Stephen O’Reilly won the RTÉ Radio 1 Francis MacManus Short Story Competition beating off 2,000 entries to take the gong.
His entry, Honey Days, is the story of a ménage-à-trois of a kind between Ava, Grace and James, only one of whom is human.
“It’s a little bit science fiction in that this woman who’s very isolated is living with two companions – I hesitate to call them robots – but they’re not quite human and they have an inability to understand just how lonely or isolated she is.”
“The idea has been bubbling away for a number of years. I suppose it took me a month to write it because I wanted to do it as well as I could but in a way nothing ever gets finished – I’m always having to revisit or tweak everything I write.”
Since his decision to write full-time in 2017, Stephen has been shortlisted for a previous Francis MacManus competition and the Seán O’Faoláin Short Story Award. He is also a recipient of a Molly Keane Memorial Award.
He is currently completing the first draft of a novel.
The native of Bundoran studied communications but left college early to emigrate to London where he worked in construction for 15 years. During a quiet spell, he took up writing and had a short story published in the UK – a year after he had submitted it.
“I always planned to write but you get so caught up with pay packets and chasing the money. We moved to Galway after my wife got a job here and I worked in B&Q for ten years but once I turned 50 I decided to have a second crack at it.”
He aims to write 800 words a day, spending between six and hours at a desk in the house the couple bought at Killeeneen outside Craughwell.
“I really work at it – I think that’s the nature of being older and being calmer and more considerate – maybe I wasn’t ready when I was young,” he reflects.
“I have lots of ideas – the beauty of having all this time to write is there is no shortage of ideas, it’s a matter of sitting down and writing them.”
Since his return to the art, short stories are his preferred medium.
“I love short stories – I think they are kind of undervalued. I feel short stories are leading me into longer pieces.
“I’m so happy the judges [Liz Nugent, Sinead Crowley and Declan Meade] saw something in this one.”
The ten shortlisted short stories will be broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 by some of Ireland’s leading stage actors.
Honey Days will read by Jane Brennan who starred in the movie Brooklyn and mini-series The Tudors.