Free online counselling to be rolled out across Ireland

The HSE is contracting an online mental health support service for people with depression and anxiety nationally.

a persons hands on their open laptop

An online counselling service is about to launch free of charge throughout Ireland for those suffering from depression and/or anxiety, a service needed by much of society in a post-pandemic reality and acutely the LGBTQ+ community.

According to a national survey conducted by BeLonG To Youth Services, we are in the midst of a mental health crisis among the queer community, with a colossal 97% of LGBTQ+ young people suffering from anxiety, stress or depression.

“The past 12 months have been extremely difficult for [LGBTQ+] young people, as clear from our research,” says, Moninne Griffith, CEO of BeLonG To Youth Services.

“Levels of self-harm and suicide ideation are rising as LGBTI+ young people experience unique mental health challenges. Many formal and informal safety nets, supports, and services have been unavailable because of lockdowns and increased social isolation…

“We need to let LGBTI+ young people know that they are not alone. We need to show LGBTI+ young people across Ireland know that there are spaces for them to come together, be who they are, and receive the support they need.”

The timely launch of this online counselling service follows the success of an initial pilot programme which showed impressive results that merited the continuation of the project.

It comes after 88% of patients with severe anxiety and depression “experienced significantly reduced symptoms” after undergoing the pilot treatment.

The treatment is said to take between eight and twelve weeks typically but outcomes continue to improve for those who engage with the programme beyond the twelve weeks.

Funded by the HSE, the free counselling service is brought to us by SilverCloud, an online provider of mental health supports, and is available to anyone with a referral from GPs, primary care psychologists, the national counselling service or Jigsaw mental health charity.

Jim Ryan, the HSE assistant national director for mental health operations, remarked that, although Covid-19 forced mental health services to go online, in doing so it also opened up access.

“Many people can receive effective treatment for mental health difficulties at primary care level and we know that early intervention can make a huge difference,” said Ryan.

“Programmes like SilverCloud, with clinical oversight, will provide timely support to people who might otherwise have to wait for a face-to-face consultation. The HSE will continue to invest in online service in order to improve access for appropriate supports.”

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