Students across Ireland are presenting with mental health issues ‘on a daily basis’, according to more than two-thirds of guidance counsellors.
A recent survey carried out by the Institute of Guidance Counsellors’ (IGC) has revealed that more than two thirds (67.4%) of counsellors who responded stated that students come to them with mental health issues on a daily basis, and a further 28.7% said this occurred on a weekly basis.
The survey also revealed that guidance counsellors are forced to cater for vulnerable students amid growing mental ill health and a lack of timely external services.
The IGC represents more than 1,300 practitioners in second level schools, third level colleges, adult guidance services, private practice and in other settings.
The organisations’ national survey revealed reveal significant issues in the current provision in second level schools and PLC colleges.
The survey revealed that 27.1% of schools have staff without a guidance counselling qualification delivering guidance to students.
“Having unqualified members of staff delivering guidance to students with complex needs is not delivering an appropriate service to our students or our school colleagues,” said IGC President Beatrice Dooley.
“Guidance counselling needs to be delivered by a professionally qualified guidance counsellor as we deal with issues such as mental health, self-management and career decision making which require specific skills, competencies and up-to-date and accurate information.”
Respondents to the survey also revealed that due to the increasing levels of mental ill-health they deal with coupled with the prolonged waiting periods due to referral difficulties to external services, many guidance counsellors are left ‘holding’ vulnerable students within the school for extended periods.
A majority (83.2%) felt that they do not have sufficient time to respond to students’ needs in a timely manner.
Currently, 94.1% of IGC members report they are delivering some hours of guidance counselling to their students in their spare time, ie outside of their allocations.
Nearly a third (30.4%) report that they work more than seven hours outside of their allocations on a weekly basis.
“This equates to a 6th working day per week and is not sustainable long term given the demanding nature of our work,” said Ms Dooley.