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Mental Health problems affect learning

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Mental Health problems affect learning

One in three adult learners say mental health problems affect their ability to learn or study


Further Education and Training (FET) learners in Ireland experience a high rate of mental health problems, with more than one in three learners saying mental health issues affect their ability to learn or study. That’s according to AONTAS, the national adult learning organisation who launched a research report today (10.10.2023), on World Mental Health Day, which documents the experiences of over 2,500 FET learners who took part in research for the National FET Learner Forum from 2022 to 2023.


Speaking at the launch AONTAS CEO, Dearbháil Lawless said: “One of the key findings from the research shows that high accommodation costs and issues with access to transport can hinder people’s ability to take part in their courses and add to mental health difficulties. This report shows the vital importance of providing mental health services and supports for learners in Ireland.


Ms Lawless continued: “What makes this report so unique is that it documents the first-hand experiences of learners in FET, and also puts forward recommendations directly from the learners themselves. Learners have asked for the supports they need to tackle mental health challenges, to help them stay in their courses, and succeed in their learning.”


While this report paints a concerning picture about the impact of social and political issues on learners’ mental health and their ability to learn and focus in their studies, learners also highlight the mental health support they receive from their Education and Training Boards, with an emphasis on support given by FET tutors.  


A participant in the National FET Learner Forum said"The tutors are fantastic, but they can't do everything, so it would be really good if we all had access to a counsellor because if we feel better, we learn better." 


Learner recommendations in the report include a need for:

  • learners to have more access and availability of appointments with counsellors, and for sessions that are affordable for learners
  • increased travel allowances for learners and the need to liaise with local transport services to expand access to transport for people living in rural areas who are at risk of isolation
  • targeted awareness-raising with marginalised groups, such as ethnic minorities and refugees, through site visits and advertising campaigns, to better facilitate their participation in adult education
  • more advertisement and promotion of available mental health supports in FET colleges and on websites, so learners are more aware of what is available
  • continued encouragement of tutors to be aware of and able to help support mental health difficulties for learners when they arise.   


Ciarán Kennedy, Community Education Facilitator with responsibility for learner wellbeing at Tipperary Education and Training Board said: "It’s really important that all the members of our community in the ETB are familiar with the services that exist outside of our ETB.” 


He continued: “Tutors need to inform their learners about the services available so they can access the supports when needed, because it’s when they’re outside of the ETB that they may need support.” 


Read the full report, FET Learners and Mental Health in Ireland: Identifying Supports here: Click here ...  

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