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First Wellbeing Index for Irish higher-education to be led by National University of Ireland Galway

19 June 2018

National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway) is to lead the first comprehensive survey of wellbeing across the Higher Education sector in Ireland. The study will assess the standard and level of mental health supports in third-level institutions for students and staff so as to inform improvements and policy development.

The announcement was made by the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, at the Mindful Way Conference at NUI Galway on 14 June. 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.

From left to right Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Ann Walsh, Saoirse Nic Gabhainn and Lokesh Joshi

Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research at NUI Galway, said mental health issues in Universities are rising at an alarming rate across Europe.

“In the EU, about 165 million people are affected each year by mental disorders, mostly anxiety, mood, and substance use disorders. According to the World Health Organisation, by 2030 mental health issues will be the biggest health burden in our society.  Crucial to note is that an estimated 75% of adult mental disorders begin before the age of 24. So there is undoubtedly a critical role which higher-education can play, picking up the baton from primary and secondary-level schools, in supporting students”.

The Health and Wellbeing team in NUI Galway, led by Professor Lokesh Joshi and Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn, are developing 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.

Professor Joshi added: “We are delighted to create this Wellbeing Index for the Department of Education and Skills. 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. We would like to think Ireland can be an exemplar for Europe in this field.”

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 Minister Mitchell O’Connor 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. 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.”

Ends

For more about the Mindful Way initiative at NUI Galway visit nuigalway.ie/mindfulway

Pictured at the Mindful Way Conference at NUI Galway on 14 June were: Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President, NUI Galway; Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister of State at the Department of Education with special responsibility for Higher Education; Ann Walsh, Programme Director of the MSc Marketing Practice and coordinator of the Mindful Way Initiative, NUI Galway; and leaders of the Health and Wellbeing team in NUI Galway, Professors Saoirse Nic Gabhainn and Lokesh Joshi.

European University Association (EUA)

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