Community mental health services are vital

The work of community-based mental health organisations is vital and more resources are urgently needed, it has been claimed.

According to Dr Marcella Finnerty, CEO of Village Counselling Service (VCS), a properly resourced community-based counselling service is essential to address increasing waiting lists for mental health services.

The VCS, which is based in Tallaght in Dublin, is the largest community-based counselling service in Ireland. It was established in 2004 and it provides affordable, accessible primary care mental health intervention and prevention facilities.

In its first year of operation, six therapists saw 24 clients in two portacabins. Now, a team of 154 volunteer counsellors see around 2,000 clients per year.

"Over the past 15 years, our centre has grown at a rate we could not have imagined at its inception, and continues to provide a high-quality, accessible, professional, affordable, community-based counselling service.

"Mental health issues don't discriminate. The average age of our clients is 32 years, but our clientele are drawn from all age groups - with a current age range from six years to over 80. We address a broad spectrum of problems for those who need help at any stage in their lives," Dr Finnerty explained.

Issues seen at the VCS include depression, bereavement, relationship problems, abuse, addiction, stress and self-esteem problems.

Around 20% of clients are children and teenagers, who most commonly present with problems relating to parental separation and anxiety.

As a result of the high percentage of young people attending, the VCS opened the Sarah-Jane Child and Adolescent Service in 2008. Since then, more than 2,000 children and teenagers have used this service.

"Our work has expanded exponentially in recent years and we see growing demand and growing waiting lists. To continue to meaningfully respond to this demand, we need to remain contemporary and use innovative approaches, such as the delivery of online therapy and the use of other new and emerging technologies.

"Appropriate and realistic funding, which acknowledges the impact which the VCS has had on the social fabric and mental health and wellbeing of Irish society, will allow us to stay relevant and continue to expand and improve our service offering as we look ahead to the next 15 years," Dr Finnerty said.

The VCS receives funding from the HSE, TUSLA and the National Office for Suicide Prevention, as well as contributions from clients. Clients pay what they can afford, with the average contribution amounting to €13 per session. However, many clients pay less than that, or nothing at all.

"One of the core values of the VCS is that money must not be a barrier to people accessing high-quality mental health care. However, guaranteeing a quality service in a welcoming environment that provides warmth and privacy for our clients, and for those who deliver our services, comes at a cost.

"Making the VCS's vision for quality and accessibility real is an enormous challenge, which can only be met over the coming years if adequate resourcing is made available," explained VCS chairperson, Anna Lee.

The VCS highlighted the need for more resources during a visit to its facilities by the Minister of State with special responsibility for mental health and older people, Jim Daly.

The VCS offers appointments from 8am to 10pm, Monday to Friday, and from 8am to 8pm on Saturdays. For more information, click here


[Posted: Tue 26/02/2019]

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