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Online counselling service helps Irish in Canada and Australia deal with depression and loneliness

Helplink is offering six online counselling appointments to Irish emigrants in need.

File photo
File photo
Image: Antonio Guillem via Shutterstock

IRISH PEOPLE LIVING in Canada and Australia are now able to avail of free online counselling services from the mental health organisation Helplink.

Cabhrú, meaning help in Irish, is the name of Helplink’s online service. It has been available to current Irish passport holders in Australia since September 2016 and now it’s being extended to Irish people living in Canada.

Helplink’s founder Lochlann Scott told TheJournal.ie that the service has already helped Irish people living in Australia deal with depression, addiction, loneliness and stress.

“We’ve had just over 200 people use the service and we’re going to be seeing a big increase in that as well,” Scott told TheJournal.ie.

The Cabhrú team works with Irish support services in Australia, and now Canada, to provide the counselling services.

“Some of these centres even provide an opportunity to use a computer in a private space if the person doesn’t have access to wifi, or a smartphone,” Scott said.

We have put the message out through providing posters to local Irish sports teams all across Australia and now we’re in the process of doing that around Canada.

Clients will be able to avail of a minimum of six free appointments over an online video call with an insured and qualified Irish counsellor.

Cabhrú operates 12 hours a day between Monday and Friday, along with six hours a day on Saturdays and Sunday, to help work around the time zone differences.

Calls for emigrants to avail

The idea to provide a counselling service to Irish living abroad came about when Helplink’s counsellors began to notice that some of their clients wanted to continue their sessions when they went abroad for work or holidays, according to Scott.

Although clients continued using services when they went abroad on a short-term basis, Helplink found that those who move abroad permanently are less likely to avail of services in their new homes abroad.

“We did about a year’s worth of research and it shows that people who emigrate are less likely to attend mental health services in their country of adoption.

Even when they do attend, the therapy process can take a lot longer because of cultural differences in wording and norms.

He said that the research also illustrated that some of those who did attempt to engage in mental health services abroad reported some barriers, including encounters with culturally unaware counsellors, which made the counselling process more difficult.

The organisation plans to further expand the Cabhrú service this year to major cities where the Irish are based in the US.

Cabhrú has the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the GAA, An Post and the Crosscare Migrant Project.

If you’re living in Ireland and need to talk, contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 1800 247247 or email mary@pieta.ie – (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

For more information about the Cabhrú service and how to apply, see www.helplink.ie/cabhru

Read: Fianna Fáil TD becomes emotional in Dáil speaking about death of young man by suicide

More: ‘I’m pushing for change in mental health services – and you can help me’

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