Telephone counselling service records increased calls from abuse survivors

Telephone counselling service Connect, catering to survivors of institutional abuse, has recorded a 22% increase in calls during 2011, amounting to 10,384 calls.

Connect was established in 2006 and is a free service funded by the HSE. It is also available to abuse survivors now living in the UK.

The growth in demand for Connect’s service continues the pattern from previous years when there was an average of 30% year on year growth during its first four full years of service (2007-2010 ). There have been a total of 42,183 calls made to Connect since it began in 2006.

In November and December of 2011 calls from survivors of institutional abuse peaked at 32% and 34% respectively, which is linked to publication of church abuse reports during these months; 80%, of calls during 2011 were from women with 50% of callers aged 31-40. Of callers who reported diagnosed mental illness, 70% said they suffered from depression. Others identified themselves as having self-harmed, suicidal thoughts, eating disorder(s ) and relationship difficulties.

Connect manager Theresa Merrigan has welcomed the continued growth of the service and is calling on more men to make use of the service.

She also highlighted the need to make more people aware of the service in Northern Ireland and Britain.

“Research suggests that the majority of survivors live in Ireland (58% ) with a sizeable minority (37% ) in the UK and the balance in other parts of the world. We therefore need to grow the number of callers from the UK to support Irish abuse survivors who live there. This is a priority for Connect in 2012,” she said.

Up to 90% of calls to Connect are repeat calls from people who decide to avail of ongoing support for a period of time while they await face-to-face counselling, or deal with a particular issue in their life.

At times of abuse report publications, or television programmes which highlight abuse issues, there is up to a 100% increase in first time callers, many of whom give first time disclosures of abuse.

At these times Connect extends its hours of service to provide additional support to people distressed or affected by media attention. These callers very often become regular callers for a period while they either await face-to-face counselling or other supports.

Connect is available Wednesday to Sunday from 6-10pm at 1800 477 477 and from the UK at 0800 477 477 77. More at www.connectcounselling.ie

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