Care & Connect
Students chat in the foyer of the Stokes Building


About DCU Care & Connect


DCU Care & Connect is a whole-of-university approach to positive mental and physical health and student wellbeing which has been developed by Student Support & Development along with professional, academic and administrative units, alongside DCU Students' Union. 

The University is committed to developing and supporting a culture of wellbeing which will be felt in every aspect of university life. We aim to develop a caring community where students and staff know that they matter as individuals and that their development is at the heart of everything we do at the University. 

Care & Connect brings together a number of services and supports for students under a single umbrella which is dedicated to the advancement of the health and wellbeing experience in DCU.

The former approach to student wellbeing, which saw individual units being ‘responsible’ for student welfare simply doesn’t work anymore - we need to work across the whole system and ‘live’ the values which underpin a healthy community. 

Ahead of the new academic year in September, this site will be home to the new Care & Connect resource hub, signposting all the student supports and services DCU has to offer to foster a positive health and wellbeing experience across our campuses. A separate portal with relevant information and resources for staff will also be available on this site. 

DCU Care & Connect is a whole-of-university approach that situates national frameworks and initiatives under an overarching DCU Health and Wellbeing Strategy, and replaces DCU Healthy.

It aims to develop a campus environment where students are treated with dignity and respect, where every member of staff feels responsible for student wellbeing and where students watch out for each other and develop meaningful relationships with their peers.

It aims to help students understand the importance of self care and the impact a healthy body and a healthy mind can have on the quality of their learning, their relationships and their lives.

The Care & Connect approach was developed in collaboration and conversation with international advisors, national partners, internal colleagues and a large number of students. It incorporates the National Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework, Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Higher Education Institutions, Responding to Excessive Alcohol Consumption in Third-Level Institutions (REACT), the Framework for the Response of the Use of Illicit Substances in Higher Education, the Healthy Campus Charter and Framework, the JED Framework and the good work which was done under DCU Healthy.

More than 50 members of staff in the University, across all campuses, along with the Students' Union, have been working on this new initiative which commenced quietly in February 2020, when the first connection with JED Campus was established. The breadth of engagement which spans Student Support & Development, the Office of Student Life (OSL), the Students’ Union (SU), Estates, Security, Health & Safety, Academic staff from every Faculty, the Library, DCU Sports, Campus Residences, the Graduate Studies Office, ISS, HR, Communications & Marketing, Registry, Fees and the Quality Promotion Office shows the commitment of the entire community to this initiative.

After much discussion and consultation with students and staff, we chose the name ‘Care & Connect’ to communicate the concept that wellbeing is built on caring about and connecting with other people. These were the values which students felt would actually make a difference to them.

Key Milestones for DCU Care & Connect

February 2020

JED engagement (international benchmarking and engagement)

Year 1: Strategic Planning

December 2021

JED completed an audit of DCU policies, procedures and supports

December - January 2022

DCU engaged with the Healthy Minds Survey (HMS) team on the design of the student survey (University of Michigan), with amendments made for the DCU context

February 8th 2022

Healthy Minds Survey was launched and received over 3000 responses

April 2022

DCU received the HMS provisional findings

April 2022

JED site visit took place which kick-started the strategic planning process. The team held a series of meetings with staff and students, including targeted focus groups.

July - November 2022

Began an extensive consultative process, engaging an external partner to help ensure sufficient objectivity and a robust outcome, reflective of the input of all stakeholders, most importantly, representative student samples.

Process to agree to co-locate our student experience activities (MH/Wellbeing/EDI/ESVH) strands under this new entity and umbrella.

July - December 2022

Recommendations of external partner explored and some key items actioned, including:

Post-event/crisis mental health support for our first responders through Spectrum Health (Estates Team). 

Mental Health Nurse role designed, advertised and filled.    

Initiated a review around coordination of care with consultant psychiatrist to help inform our approach. Counselling service model review conducted with particular focus on first appointment assessment.

Life Skills Programming Reviewed as per recommendations. The new Skills Development Centre was redeveloped. A new Wellness Centre space was allocated, a hybrid space for consultations and groupwork. This will also serve as a relaxation zone which will  be launched in September 2023.

Discover Life Skills short courses were rolled out on LOOP to all incoming students. New Discover Community eLearning course now includes Anti-Bias and Intercultural Awareness Training.

January - July 2023

Members of C&C Committee allocated to 4 sub-groups, based on their areas of interest and expertise. The focus of these groups is as follows:

  • Support & Crisis Management
  • Healthy Choices
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Academic Environment, Training & Development

Priority areas for 23/24 identified and Action Plans in development

July 2023

Staff Launch of C&C

September 2023

Student Launch of C&C


Completion of JED engagement and normalisation of C&C.

Feedback from Focus Groups with Students

It’s clear from the results of the Healthy Minds Survey that DCU has a lot to do to increase student wellbeing.

Here is some of the feedback from the student survey:

“If the college tries to destigmatize mental health, then it will spread to students and lower the stigma among friends”

“If you’re not drinking with your friends four or five times a week, you will find yourself alone most of the time.”

“You often don’t have time to think about yourself - you’re always going on and on, the next assignment, etc. Summer you get three months to blow off steam then it’s back on the same cycle.”

“There’s a pent up social anxiety - hard to break through that especially with men.”

“High pressure with exams leads to sleep deprivation."

“It’s very hard as a commuter student to connect or go out because you don’t have a place to stay afterwards.”

“If someone is struggling, folks will withdraw.”

DCU C&C aims to de-stigmatise help-seeking behaviours and make it easy for students to seek out and get help when needed. Equally, we plan to support and encourage a culture of self-care, and a culture of caring for each other -  and normalise habits which are conducive to positive mental and physical health.