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Nearly two-in-five third-level students are experiencing serious levels of anxiety and depression as a result of stress, a new survey has revealed.

The newly published 'Report on Student Mental Health in Third-Level Education' was compiled by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), with the support of the HSE Mental Health and the National Office for Suicide Prevention.

Almost one-third of students have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, with the results painting a worrying picture of the extent of pressures and struggles on the shoulders of Irish students.

The statistics examined the occurrence of mental health distress and ill health among third-level students and the availability and use of mental health support service for young people.

Multiple factors influence depression and anxiety, and women were found to be more likely to suffer anxiety than men. Non-binary students had the highest levels of severe anxiety.

The survey, which was conducted in 2018, was open to students in every college, North and in the Republic, and most of the respondents were undergraduates aged between 18 and 24-years-old.

74 percent of participants were female, and experiences varied largely depending on the type of college attended, the area of study and whether it was inside or outside of Dublin.

One in five of those surveyed identified as LGBTQ+ and just over 1 percent identified as transgender. 38 percent are experiencing extremely severe levels of anxiety, alarmingly.

30 percent of people are reporting suffering from depression and 17 percent are experiencing stress. Almost one-third reported that they had a formal mental health difficulty which was diagnosed.

One of the most distressing points is that 21 percent of participants did not have someone to talk to about personal and emotional difficulties. Free on-campus counselling is imperative for students.

Students were found to use on and off-campus services to aid their mental health, and the student union made 35 percent of students aware of support services. 

The study had a large response of 3,340 students, but the findings may not be a full picture of the student population.

Employment during college was also found to affect students' ability to socialise with their classmates, and those involved in activities outside of coursework had improved mental health.

USI president Lorna Fitzpatrick in Trinity College Dublin said students had provided a vast amount of vital data which would be used to improve mental health services at third level for everyone.

Numerous institutions were found to be problematic in terms of the quality of care offered to students, and a quality assurance tool must be made to ensure consistency between institutions.

Transitioning from secondary school to college is a huge step for all students, and comes at a time when they are most at risk of developing mental health difficulties.

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Third level colleges and institutions across the country have been told they will lose out on access to research funding if they are found to be involved in gender discrimination.

Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, warned that colleges have “nowhere to hide” should they fail to promote more deserving female colleagues to senior positions.

As it stands, women make up less that have of lecturers in universities across the country, with even less at higher grades such as associate professor and professor.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Minister O'Connor said: “We need to send a message loud and clear to the institutions. There is nowhere to hide now. We want to see results. And there will be penalties.”

What's more, State funding will also be withheld if institutions fail to meet performance targets.

Speaking on the importance of these new measures, she said: “Young women are going into college, getting high points, so why are so few reaching professorships?”

“ What kind of message are we giving to young girls? They need to see role models in third level education.”

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Ahead of hurricane Ophelia's arrival in Ireland today, it was confirmed that all schools and third-level institutions across the country would remain closed.

This afternoon, it was announced that primary and secondary schools would stay closed tomorrow as well, leaving many third-level students wondering as to the status of their respective institution.

Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, took to Twitter this afternoon to confirm the reports and provide clarity to the public.

"It is recognised that the decision to close schools will have a major impact on families and on the workforce. However, this decision has been taken in the interests of safety for children and to provide clarity for everyone concerned," he tweeted.

Turning his attention to third-level institutions around Ireland, he asserted that it is up to the individual institution as to whether they will re-open to staff and students.

"Regarding 3rd level, it is up to individual institution to decide whether to open, giving utmost consideration to safety of staff & students," he confirmed online.

DCU, it's over to you…

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For the second year in a row, the all-girls Coláiste Laurel Hill in Limerick has been named as the best school in the country.

Everyone single one of its students have progressed on to third-level institutions in the last three academic years: 92.4 percent of those places have been at universities.

The Sunday Times' Schools Guide also declares Coláiste Na Coiribe in Galway as Ireland's best mixed schoolwhile Presentation Brothers College in Mardyke, Cork, is the best performing boys school.

Kate Butler says in today's edition: "Munster has generally being doing extremely well," also highlighting that even though it only has half the population of Leinster, Munster has almost as many schools listed in the Top 100.

Coláiste Laurel Hill is a non-fee paying school, but Dublin private schools are well-represented too: Gonzaga, Alexandra College, and Mount Anville all feature.

Furthermore, Limerick's famed Glenstal Abbey, which charges €18,000 a year for boarders and close-to €11,000 annually for day-pupils, appears.

The Ten Top rated schools are listed below, with last year's position in brackets:

  1. (1) Laurel Hill Colaiste FCJ, Sth Circular Rd, Limerick. Girls.
  2. (7) Presentation Brothers College, Mardyke, Cork. Boys.
  3. (9) Scoil Mhuire, Sidney Place, Cork. Girls.
  4. (3) Colaiste Iosagain, Blackrock, Co Dublin. Girls.
  5. (4) Gonzaga College, Ranelagh, Dublin 6. Boys.
  6. (6) Alexandra College, Milltown, Dublin 6. Girls. 
  7. (2) Glenstal Abbey School, Murroe, Co Limerick. Boys.
  8. (5) Mount Anville Secondary School, Dublin 14. Girls.
  9. (8) Colaiste na Coiribe, Tuam Road, Galway. Mixed.
  10. (22) Jesus & Mary Secondary School, Salthill, Galway. Girls.
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