City Councillor calls for greater mental health support for Leaving Cert students

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Galway Daily news City Councillor calls for greater mental health support for Leaving Cert students

The mental health needs of Leaving Cert students who have gone through a uniquely difficult year must not be forgotten a Galway City Councillor has said.

2020 has been a unique Leaving Cert year in the history of Irish education, with the majority of students eventually receiving calculated grades after months of schools trying to continue education remotely, though others have opted to sit some exams this month as well.

This also puts students in the position of having to sit exams without having enjoyed the full range of school supports normally enjoyed in 6th year, and revising at home while dealing with the stresses and isolation brought on by COVID-19.

Cllr Clodagh Higgins, a Psychologist by profession, is calling on Government and Education Minister, Norma Foley “to ensure students do not fall through the cracks and that their mental health concerns are addressed after a very stressful year for them.”

“This year has been an incredibly difficult year for students as they have had to adapt to the pandemic, and they will need every support made available to them.”

“Any student entering their final second level exams encounters a degree of anxiety which is expected given their future depends on the outcome. However this year, Covid has compounded this in ways we don’t yet fully comprehend.

“We know there was a demand for support and that anxiety, self-harm and suicidal ideation were the main challenges students were presenting with prior to Covid and it is expected this will continue.”

Even after the calculated grades were released, further stress was brought on by the news that errors in the system had resulted in thousands of students receiving lower grades than they should have.

This some time after students had already begun to accept course positions in colleges and universities.

“With all the challenges our youth are facing there needs to be a greater emphasis on counselling services and intervention at second level to mitigate the impact of a potential mental health pandemic.

Guidance Counselors are already under acute pressure and I firmly believe individuals who have approved qualifications in counselling should be employed on full time contracts at second level in order to protect our students and their health and safety,” Clodagh Higgins explained.

The Fine Gael Councillor concluded by saying that Minister Foley needs to make the mental health of students a top priority.