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MEDIA RELEASE: CAPA calls for university counselling services to increase capacity

8 Jul 19

CAPA calls for university counselling services to increase capacity

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) demands that university counselling services address long waiting lists and restrictions on student access, in a submission to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

CAPA investigated counselling services available at Victoria’s nine public universities, finding that all except two only offer short-term counselling. Most universities restrict their students to a maximum of six counselling sessions a year, with one university only allowing up to three counselling sessions. This means that students who are assessed at their initial appointment as requiring more counselling appointments are turned away, and told to access external services which they often cannot afford.

University counselling services are often the first port-of-call for a student with mental distress, but many have protracted waiting lists. Three Victorian universities warn on their websites that there may be long delays to see a counsellor.

There have been countless surveys and studies on student wellbeing which have found that students are prone to suffering from mental health issues. Marginalised groups of students, including low socio-economic status, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and LGBTQIA+ students are particularly vulnerable.

We recognise that university counsellors are tasked with an important job which is essential to university communities. More resources – not restructuring – are needed to ensure that university counselling services can accommodate those who need help. If universities are unable to provide additional mental health support, the Government must step in to ensure a suitable minimum level of service.

“It is unacceptable that university counselling services are so underfunded that they are turning away students who have taken the difficult step of asking for help,” says CAPA National President, Natasha Abrahams. “Urgent action is needed to boost the capacity of counselling services.”

Our full submission to the Royal Commission is available here.
For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993