One in five clients of a new not-for-profit counselling and psychotherapy service in the city is seeking help for anxiety and depression.
About 17 per cent of people attending the Lets Get Talking Galway health care service at the Tuam Road Retail Centre, are dealing with addictions, mainly alcohol and drugs, and eating disorders, according to its co-ordinator Cyril Hyland. It was set up in January and was officially opened by Minister Kathleen Lynch on Tuesday.
He says about 10 per cent of clients present with suicide ideation or thoughts about suicide. These are mainly males in their twenties. Some have experienced severe trauma in their past or there may be sexual abuse in the background.
Meanwhile a “small” but “significant” number of people who contact the service have mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia or are bi polar. Other clients are coping with bereavement, unemployment, the effects of the economic downturn and other life issues.
The facility, set up by Mr Hyland and Elaine Ryan, both counsellors and psychotherapists, focuses on client need rather than ability to pay. There is no set fee, people are asked to donate what they can.
“Access is the main idea behind our service,” he says. “Two issues affect access, cost and stigma. The recession had a bearing on our service model and the view that counselling/psychotherapy had become elitist and was only accessible, in many cases, to people with money. Not many people can afford to pay €60 per session. Our fee is decided and determined by clients. People can donate whatever they can afford.
“We think that we can make a difference. The idea was to have a bottom-up organisation whereby mental health responses are focused on the need of the community we operate in. We decided to build a model based on the emerging needs of the community.”
The cornerstone of the centre’s work is reducing the stigma associated with mental health problems, emotional difficulties and behavioural issues.
“Unfortunately in the present climate, it is often those who most need help and support that can least afford it,” he says. “Our objectives are to advance mental health in the community by alleviating the emotional distress of clients suffering from a wide range of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and offering hope for those who indicate suicidal intent.”
The age profile of the 150 clients who have accessed the Let’s Get Talking Galway service since it was set up more than six months ago range from 18 to people in their sixties. About 60 per cent are women.
“One area that seems to be coming up a lot is relationship issues,” says Mr Hyland. The far reaching effects of the recession are to be seen everywhere, he believes.
“People are dealing with unemployment, a lack of disposable income, mortgage arrears and debts built up during the Celtic Tiger. There is extra pressure on them and in many cases they feel quite hopeless.”
He says while some people are more predisposed to anxiety and depression than others, the triggers now are so great that even a small level of predisposition would conspire to make people feel anxious or down.
Online gambling has become a “huge” issue, according to Mr Hyland who is originally from Ballindine, Co Mayo. “There is alway a steady stream of people presenting with addictive behaviour. Men and women would present equally with drink and drug addictions while the vast majority in the gambling area would be men.
“Now people can gamble 24/7. The Government recently talked about introducing new legislation in relation to gambling. It would involve putting a levy on the betting industry for those who suffer from an addiction to gambling.”
The Let’s Get Talking Galway service offers brief and open ended one-to-one, couples, and group counselling. It also provides education to enable people to develop self help strategies and positive coping skills. In addition, it provides community workshops, lectures and courses; assistance in training for those studying counselling and psychotherapy; and continuous professional development programmes.
Elaine Ryan, the director of client services at the centre, says it aims to support people seeking help for psychological issues. She stressed this will take place within a safe and confidential environment.
The current high suicide levels demand a “determined focus on psychotherapeutic interventions” which complement the efforts of the medical profession, HSE and existing organisations in this area, she feels.
“Let’s Get Talking Galway will complement many existing services, in that it aims to promote social inclusion by offering a subsidised affordable service at the point of need. While the centre will offer a general counselling service it will also be in a position to offer specialised psychological therapies in specific areas such as, sexual trauma, addiction, and bereavement. This will be delivered by accredited professionals contracted to the centre, with comprehensive experience in those areas.”
Anyone who wishes to contact the centre should log onto www.letsgettalkinggalway.ie or email [email protected] or telephone (091 ) 765500. The service is located at the Tuam Road Retail Centre, Tuam Road, Galway.