Students and staff at Monash University could struggle to get help with mental health issues under a plan to outsource services at the university, student and staff unions are arguing.

In the existing program, counselling is offered free to every student with a short wait time, whether or not they have a diagnosed mental health condition. For instance, the services include guidance and support for exam stress, coming out, grieving a loved one, and sexual assault.

But Monash is booting a third of its in-house counsellors and increasing the number of psychologists on contracts, who require a mental healthcare plan from a GP.

An article in Monash student rag Lot’s Wife — written by members of the National Tertiary Education Union — argues the move changes the role of counselling from a preventative measure to a reactive process to deal with a crisis.

While Monash University says there will be 30% more sessions available to students, the NTEU argues it would mean quantity over quality, with less ongoing care available outside appointment hours.

Monash said in a statement:

“Monash Counselling services have been provided by a mix of contractors and staff for over 20 years. The proposed changes affect 3.4 staff and we are working with them to provide transition support.  By making these changes we will provide 30 per cent more free counselling services to students and staff, improve waiting times and improve access to same day appointments. Counselling services are free. The quality of our service to students and staff is paramount and will not be lessened.”

The NTEU and MSA also claim a $50 fee will be applied to no-shows or late cancellations for sessions with professional psychologists. Monash, however, says this is not true.

Peter Fray

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