14 June, 2018 - Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. has tasked NUI Galway to undertake a comprehensive survey of students, welfare officers and HE personnel, on how they are promoting and protecting students’ mental health

While attending the Mindful Way Conference at NUI Galway the Minister announced the Department of Education and Skills is to fund an important new wellbeing and mental health self-review survey tool on best practice and initiatives from across Higher Education in this critical area of healthcare.

The Minister said, "Since taking up my position in the Department a year ago, I have visited many of the Higher and Further Education institutions where welfare officers and students continually raise the issues relating to students mental health and wellbeing. 

"Stress, anxiety, exam pressure, work life balance, alcohol abuse, substance abuse, recreational or hard drugs can all negatively impact the wellbeing and resilience of the student. 

“Positive mental health supports young people to build their resilience. It supports them to develop their social and emotional skills and deal with daily challenges and the stresses of life. 

The initiative has one simple over-arching aim: to create happy, healthy institutions of learning which nurture and protect their students." 

NUI Galway has shown international leadership creating the first Mindful University in Europe with a broader goal towards wellbeing for students, staff and local community.

The Health and Wellbeing team in NUI Galway, led by Prof Lokesh Joshi and Prof Saoirse Nic Gabhainn, have devised an online questionnaire which students and staff members in Higher Education & Further Education Institutes, Institutes of Technology and Independent Colleges will be invited to complete.

At today’s conference, Professor Lokesh Joshi said, “We are delighted to create this Wellbeing Index for the Department.  There are positive initiatives happening in a lot of our institutions for Higher Education, we just need to join up the dots to have a more fulsome and comprehensive picture.” Minister Mitchell O'Connor went on to say "I want our students to flourish in a caring and nurturing environment.  Each of the Higher Education Institutions will be invited to contribute to this valuable collation of data across the sector. The intention is to ascertain the structures that are in place across our Higher Education sector to facilitate the development of appropriate pathways of support."

The information gathered and further engagement with other HEIs, will guide the Minister’s assessment of what further steps may be appropriate and beneficial to support and safeguard student’s mental health.   

The information will be shared with all the institutions early in the new academic year. 

The theme of this year’s conference is Ireland’s Mindful Journey; and the conference explored how Mindfulness is making its way into the Education, Health and Justice systems and how policy is emerging in these areas.