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'A connection to the place they know': There's a new online mental health service for teenagers

Turn2MeYouth offers online peer support and individual counselling to 16-19 year olds.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Bernika

A NEW PROFESSIONAL mental health service for teenagers in Ireland launched this week.

Turn2Me.org is an Irish website that has been offering adults who are experiencing mental health difficulties the facility to speak with trained mental health professionals online.

The website was first launched in 2009 by brothers Oisin and Diarmuid Scollard. The pair set out to create a new online platform for people struggling with mental health issues after their brother Cormac died by suicide in 2003.

Oisin Scollard told TheJournal.ie why they opted for an online platform.

“We’ve got 9-5pm mental health services in Ireland but it’s very hard to get into them… We wanted to do something that was online because online isn’t 9-5pm. Online has better availability for people, it breaks barriers down for people and it’s a lot more accessible,” Scollard told TheJournal.ie. 

Since 2009, Turn2Me.org has seen massive success. In 2014, the service received HSE funding to offer 8 free online counselling sessions to users. Since then, the service has provided over 6,000 hours of counselling.

Turn2MeYouth

On the back of its success, the Scollard brothers are opening a new website, Turn2MeYouth.ie, focused solely on 16 to 19-year-olds.

“We were over 18 and I felt that was always very limiting,” Scollard explained.

Scollard said that he felt like while there are youth services available in Ireland, most of them are “information-based services” providing well-being information.

“That’s all very good and very powerful but beyond a certain type of helpline that exists, there’s not really any sort of people to connect with in a clinically sound and responsible way,” he said.

It’s really to give young people aged 16-19 access to the group type of environment on a daily basis, professionally facilitated with a highly trained counsellor, providing topics that young people would want to discuss.

“The problem with youth mental health in this country is that there’s no joined up plan that says look we have a bit of online, a bit of drop in centre, we have a day care and extended stay care facilities,” Scollard said.

“That’s not all joined up, so how are you going to guide people through the journey that they go through on the spectrum that they might go through? Not everybody is at that end of the spectrum where you’ll need extended stay care inside a rehabilitation centre.”

“It can be right back down to the very beginning of the spectrum where they might just need somewhere to start. It can be a really easy way to do it.”

So what does Turn2Me.org offer? 

Both the adult and youth services operate on a “three-tiered” approach, according to Schollard.

Once someone creates an account on the website, they can access a number of different services.

There are self-help articles, podcasts and guidance posters available. Following this, there are peer support groups available. Users will get daily access to a professional in a secure group chat environment. Up to 12 people can join each group.

“They’re daily support groups that people can come into on their phones, they’re professionally facilitated and they’re on different topics like anxiety, depression, family and relationship difficulties, and workplace related stress,” Scollard said.

Finally, the website offers one-to-one support through individual counselling sessions.

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Turn2Me.org ran focus group with two different groups of 60 teenagers from all over Ireland with different socioeconomic backgrounds before launching the youth service.

This helped the Scollard brothers figure out what young people really wanted out of a mental health service.

“The subjects that we’ve chosen deliberately were very much based on what young people were saying they were wanting,” he said.

Anxiety is a very, very considerably large concern for young people and there’s issues around school, exams, where do I go now, sexuality as well. We have a dedicated LGBT group for young people.

Youth-friendly service 

The new youth service is mobile-focused, in a bid to connect with the young users.

“We built mobile-first, it happens to work on a desktop, with the idea that we could offer some degree of connection to the place they know and spend a lot of time.”

Scollard told TheJournal.ie that although the new service will be dealing with minors, the service is completely safe and secure.

“In Ireland, 16 is the age at which a younger person can begin to start making their own decisions,” he said.

“I really wanted this to go 13+ but that’s just not going to be possible at the moment because of those parental consent issues. There’s a real need for 13+ but we’ve settled on 16+ for now because we’ve taken all the legal advice.”

For more information about the services, visit www.turn2meyouth.ie and www.turn2me.org.

Read: Mindfulness in schools and less focus on points: What politicians want for Irish schoolchildren

More: ‘My recent trip home brought me back to a time when I was naïve, stupid and emotionally unravelling’

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