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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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Good news alert: USI expects voter turnout for young people to be larger than Marriage Equality referendum in 2015!

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) – which represents 374,000 students across Ireland – has said that the student turnout to vote ‘Yes’ to remove the Eighth Amendment will be the largest youth voter turnout for any referendum in the history of the state.

Speaking ahead of polls opening tomorrow, USI President Michael Kerrigan explained: “Students know that their future is at stake here. We directly registered 26,979 new student voters in the lead up to this referendum to remove the Eighth Amendment, and we know from our two week roadshow on campuses that students are united on the issue, and will be voting ‘Yes’ for a more caring and compassionate Ireland.”

“Students’ Unions have held referendums on campus on the Eighth Amendment, and up to 92% of students across campuses voted ‘Yes’ for their Students’ Union to campaign to remove the Eighth Amendment.

"We’re expecting student turnout to be bigger than the Marriage Equality vote in 2015. With almost 125,000 new voters on the register, we expect the majority to be first time young voters.”  

USI is the national representative body for the 374,000 students in third level education on the Island of Ireland, and is a member of the national civil society campaign, Together For Yes.

USI has been campaigning for the decriminalisation of abortion in Ireland since 1979. In 2015, USI mobilised students to vote in Marriage Equality seeing the largest youth voter turnout for any vote in the history of the state.

Use your vote tomorrow guys. The women of Ireland deserve better. 

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The Union of Students in Ireland will launch a 'Repeal Mobile' this morning as part of the campaign for a Yes vote in the upcoming abortion referendum.

Kicking off at Maynooth University, the two-week roadshow will see the Repeal Mobile visit campuses across the country in an effort to prepare students for the vote scheduled for May 25. 

USI President Michael Kerrigan said: “Students have campaigned for abortion rights for decades, and we’re not stopping now.

"We will make Ireland a more progressive, respectful and caring place for everyone, and students will be leading the charge.”

Meanwhile, more than half a million young people are being advised to check if they are eligible to vote after a number of people reported being removed from the electoral register. 

The deadline for adding your details to the register is Tuesday, May 8. 

The Executive Director of Spunout.ie, Ian Power, says it's vital that everyone checks the register, even if they have voted before. 

"A number of people checking the register in the last few weeks have reported to us that they have been removed," he said. 

"That can often happen as local authorities attempt to clean the registers between elections and referendums, so we are just advising everyone to check just to make sure, so that if they have been removed for any reason, or if they have changed their address, that they can do that."

You can check the register here

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As students across the country scramble to find appropriate accommodation ahead of the academic year, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is urging people to visit homes.usi.ie.

There are over 900 rooms available to rent on the website, and USI are encouraging students to consider digs to take some of the pressure off searching for rented accommodation.

USI President Michael Kerrigan said, “We’re now seeing digs benefiting both the homeowner and the student. Students have somewhere warm and safe near where they're studying. The homeowner gets to claim up to €14,000-a-year tax free.”

Concerns over the lack of available accommodation have prompted the USI to take action.

“Worryingly, 38 students in our study on housing stated that they have no accommodation and had to sleep on friends’ couches, floors or in cars. In two cases, students declared sleeping rough and availing of homeless aid. We don’t want to see this happen to more students.”

“To have 900 rooms ready to rent at one time on homes.usi.ie is a clear sign that homeowners are responding to the student accommodation crisis,” he added.

USI are recommending that students contact the homeowners directly by mobile phone to discuss house rules before moving in.

An online support service is available to website users on homes@usi.ie and homes.usi.ie also offer accommodation advice.

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Rising college fees are acting as a barrier for families who want their children to progress to third level education, says Labour Senator, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who has slated the proposed introduction of student loans.

A 2016 report found a funding gap of €5.5 billion over the next 15 years in Irish third-level education, and thus recommended the introduction of a deferred payment scheme.

However, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin is urging the Government not to go forward with these plans and will table a motion on the issue tomorrow.

He said: "Fundamentally, education should be something that the tax payer provides."

"We have any amount of people who are eager to get into third level but the fees and system is still a barrier for many other people and working families."

"I think a situation where a burden of loans that has to be re-paid over a number of years would deter people."

Meanwhile, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) are calling on the Government to decrease third-level fees by at least €250 in Budget '18.

College fees have risen dramatically over the past ten years and Micheal Kerrigan, USI President, wants the government to finally address the spiralling costs.

He said: "So what we are proposing for Budget 2018 is a minimum of €250 reduction. We have seen a 363% increase in the student contribution since 2008, which is a massive rise.

"There is no fee in the country that has gone up anywhere close to that much in the last 10 years."

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