3Set: New student counselling database by UCD helps increase HEI mental health support

Posted 22 June, 2022

At the 3Set report launch, Professor Gerry Whyte, Ralph Armstrong-Astley, Dr Deirdre Flynn, TCD Provost Linda Doyle, and Professor Barbara Dooley, and Treasa Fox, TUS Midlands

A national database for student counselling services created by UCD is a key pillar in a project addressing the increasing demand for student mental health support in Irish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

This work was carried out as part of the 3Set project; a practitioner-research partnership between UCD, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and TUS Midlands that has sought to enhance HEIs ability to ensure student wellbeing success stories.

At the launch of its latest and final report at TCD, 35 recommendations were outlined to help achieve this goal, including demonstrating how peer-led services and counselling are key to optimising future student mental health intervention.

The report ‘How counselling and peer-led services can optimise student success: An integrated approach to student mental health and wellbeing in higher education’ highlights the importance of embedding mental health and wellbeing into student success strategies and involving students as partners and co-creators.

It explains how the responsibility for the care of student mental health and wellbeing is not limited to student affairs departments; that a whole-of-institute approach is required.

Internal collaborations and systems which harness the expertise of counselling, disability and health should be encouraged, and research partnerships between academics, researchers and student affairs professionals should be fostered to promote evidence-based practices and quality services.

It also identifies how student mental health and wellbeing, and student success are mutually dependent goals.

The report complements the ‘HEA Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework’, authored by 3Set’s TUS midlands team, and the report ‘Student success: Exploring evidence-based academic, emotional, and social supports seminar report’ authored by 3Set’s UCD team.

Among the project’s efforts is the creation of a national database for student counselling services. This was developed by a team at UCD led by Professor Barbara Dooley, Acting Registrar and Deputy UCD President, using the expertise of Youth Mental Health lab (YMH lab) at the University, with support from Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education Ireland (PCHEI).

“The development of a national database capturing data systematically in student counselling services will facilitate our understanding of the mental health needs of our students ensuring that we respond appropriately to support student success,” said Professor Dooley.

To date the 3Set project outputs include:

  • National standards for the collection of data in student counselling services (SCSs).
  • The development of a national database for SCSs.
  • A Practice Research Network to identify and disseminate trends in student mental health and wellbeing.
  • Assisting the HEA to deliver the National Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework.
  • Specialised suicide assessment and management training (CAMS) for student counselling service staff in all HEIs.
  • A keyword partnership between HEIs and 24/7 anonymous text support service Text 50808.
  • Best practice guidelines for peer-led transition programmes.
  • Shared training and mentor session resources for peer-led transition.
  • A national consortium for peer-led transition staff and student volunteers.

Addressing the final report, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris said it its forward that “far from concluding the project, [it] outlines important next steps and speaks to the huge potential for change that exists within our HEIs, and I look forward to seeing how it will be adopted and adapted into the future.”

He added: “A whole-of-institute approach is key, both to the development of student success strategies and to the design and implementation of successful student mental health and wellbeing interventions.

“Inherent within this approach is the understanding that, within higher education environments, everyone has something to teach, and everyone has something to learn.”

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations