Classifieds Advertise Archive Subscriptions Family Announcements Photos Digital Editions/Apps
Connect with us


Colleges face up to crisis in mental health



Students with suicidal thoughts are presenting at counselling services in Galway’s third level institutes ‘every second day’.

The country’s third level counsellors’ association says its members are encountering a “tsunami of students presenting with mental health problems”, at NUI Galway and GMIT.

The Irish Association of University and College Counsellors (IAUCC), says that its services are partly snowed-under because the Health Service Executive (HSE) – who should be providing counselling – is making referrals of people with mental health difficulties to its services.

Dr Declan Aherne of IAUCC, and Head of Counselling at University of Limerick, said counselling services across the country including Galway’s two third level institutes – NUIG and GMIT – have lengthy waiting lists as suicide and mental health remains a huge issue among young people. This is at a time when third level colleges are facing budget cutbacks and recruitment embargoes.

Dr Aherne says society has ‘lost its way’ since the fall-off in trust in the Catholic church, and the collapse of the Celtic Tiger, which has contributed to the explosion in mental health problems and suicide.

“When the Church was gone we lost our way . . . people are asking ‘what’s it all about?’ The recession has had an effect, too. People lost hope after the Celtic Tiger collapsed. They had something to aspire to and a purpose even if that was just about money and to be rich and famous. That’s gone now and people are lost,” he said.

Dr Aherne added: “We’re getting referrals from the HSE from people who need access to mental health services and who are being sent to us because the HSE doesn’t have the services to deal with them. Five years ago we had maybe 500 students a year. Now we’re over 1,000. We have 60 on a waiting list. That’s the same in Galway – it’s right across the board. It’s both good and bad: For years we were saying to people ‘come and talk to us’. Now we’re forced to say ‘come and talk to us but you’ll have to join the queue’.”

The students who present with suicidal thoughts, he said, are encountering the same difficulties as everybody else, it’s just that their coping mechanism isn’t as effective.

He said that some students are suicidal because they don’t have the “resilience to cope with life” for a variety of reasons including a lack of a support structure or breakdown of the family.

“Every second day we have students presenting with suicidal thoughts. Ten years ago that was unheard of – now it is every second day.”

Dr Aherne made the comments on the eve of IAUCC’s annual conference in Galway this weekend. The 20th annual anniversary of the association took place in Salthill Hotel this week..

The conference opening address was given by Kieran Loftus who is the Executive Director of Operations, NUIG and Michael Hannon, GMIT Registrar. The conference heard calls for the HSE to provide counselling drop-in centres in the community – based on the sort of services offered by third level institutes – to tackle the problem of suicide and mental health in the wider community.

Students can log on to to find a range of relevant contact details including Samaritans (091-561222 or 1850-60-90-90) or Pieta House (093-25586).

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

Continue Reading

Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

Continue Reading


Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

Continue Reading