The issues surrounding mental health and especially mental health in young people has got greater prominence in the media and in conversations in homes, workplaces, and schools around the country in recent times.
But where can a young person go for help, support, and guidance if he/she needs it? Earlier this year Mindspace Mayo opened the doors of its office on Market Square in the heart of Castlebar. This week in the first part of a two part series, we will bring you inside this new venture and give an insight into the work the team are doing.
We caught up with Peadar Gardiner, the project manager of this new service to find out what Mindspace Mayo has to offer young people and how the first few months have gone since it opened its doors to young people between the ages of 15 and 25. Mindspace Mayo is a free and confidential support service for young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Mindspace’s aim is to support young people aged 15-25 who are going through a difficult time to ensure they get the support they need. The office in Castlebar provides a welcoming space for young people to call in, get information, or have a chat one–to-one with a support worker. If a young person wants support, the staff are there to listen, without making judgements, and to provide supportive guidance. They also provide information and advice to anyone who is worried about a friend or young person in his/her life.
"It's about access, you can walk in, text, phone, email us, that's what we are all about. I go out and give workshops or try to give people the information to those out there. We're trying to build community engagement with people, trying to get people to lift their game in relation to mental health, rather than sweep it under the carpet, to get them out there and talk about it and hold fundraising activities and get people talking about it," explained Gardiner.
Getting the word out about the service which has a key aim of providing early intervention for young people who are feeling they need assistance with their mental health issues is something that has been very important in the early days of the project, he went on to say. "We're a new service and key to our work is interacting with young people, we've a big presence on social media and connect with young people like that, we've newsletters and we're going out to schools. Anywhere young people are, we'll try to be there. I did a big thing with Castlebar Mitchels recently, they had a health and wellbeing seminar. It'll take a lot of time to get to everyone, but we're trying."
Gardiner went on to expand on what the service offers in comparison to more traditional and pre-existing services in the area, telling the Mayo Advertiser: "We're an early intervention service, get in early and stop the problems from developing into something much, much, worse. A young person can be suffering from an anxiety in relation to exams and if that's let build up and build up, it can lead to depression, stress, and other things. But by coming and getting support hopefully we can give the young person the support to cope and develop, mechanisms around it." He further went on to explain: "We're a brief organisation, usually young people are with us for one to six sessions, we're not long term counselling, it's a mild thing we deal with. If we can't do the job, we refer them and signpost them to whatever service they need, adult mental health, CAMS, drugs services, GPs, psychology, where the expertise is."
Giving young people free access to the services in a comfortable and open way is what the organisation is all about, he said. "Breaking the barriers to access is what we're all about, no waiting hours, we hope to open on a Saturday, that's in the plan as well. Anyone can walk in and it's a free service. We work with all the other services and are trying to join the dots, our top referral is young people through, self-referral which is great, then it's parents, after that GPs, and then schools."
Prior to this service, young people might not have known where they could access services they needed, and that was one of the main driving forces behind the setting up of the project which is funded by the HSE following recommendations made in the Mayo Youth Mental Health Initiative feasibility study which was published in 2014, Gardiner said. "Where does a young person go, a 15-year-old or a parent of a 15-year-old. Usually a GP is the first port of call, but they might not have the experience. A lot of our work is with parents, they come in asking where do I go, what do I do? It's a big part of our work. We probably wouldn't have expected as much consultation with parents, but we do a huge amount of work with schools, with calls from principals, then we've lots of calls on the phone, through emails and texts from people asking what do we do."
You can call in to Mindspace Mayo in Market Square, Castlebar, between 2pm and 6pm, Monday to Thursday and from 10am to 3pm on Fridays. You can text them on (086 ) 18 44 995, call them on (094 ) 906 7001, email them on [email protected], or log on to www.mindspacemayo.ie, you can also find them on Twitter @mindspacemayo or like them on Facebook.