Lonely or depressed abroad? Skype counselling could help

Helplink.ie plans new Cabhrú online service for Irish people living in Australia

Cabhrú will provide an emotional support helpline, and free online counselling appointments conducted on Skype, for Irish people living in Australia initially before the service is extended to other countries. Photograph: iStock/Getty Images

Cabhrú will provide an emotional support helpline, and free online counselling appointments conducted on Skype, for Irish people living in Australia initially before the service is extended to other countries. Photograph: iStock/Getty Images

 

Just like at home, Irish people living abroad experience mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and loneliness, or problems with alcohol, drugs or gambling.

Research by the Clinton Institute in UCD in 2014 found that “mental health issues are becoming more pressing with the Irish community in Australia”, and “the burden of migration - loneliness, isolation, lack of networked support - can be a significant factor”.

There are many reasons why emigrants do not seek mental health supports in their adopted countries as much as they possibly would have when they were in Ireland. Some might feel they should be putting on a brave face for those back home and those around them. Others may be put off seeking professional help in their adopted country because of cultural barriers, or a fear their problems might not be as well understood abroad as they would be at home.

Helplink Support Services, a not-for profit organisation providing free or low-cost mental health services, has helped Irish people at home and abroad through our low cost online counselling service Helplink.ie.

In 2012, I set up Helplink Support Servicesto provide free or low-cost mental health services to people across Ireland on a not-for-profit basis, and we now have a team of 35 counsellors, volunteers and mediators. In the past four years, we have provided thousands of counselling appointments nationwide online by Skype, by phone, and face-to-face in Galway.

Now Helplink.ie is going a step further in helping Irish citizens abroad.

This summer, with the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the promotional support of the GAA, we will launch a new initiative called Cabhrú, which is the Irish word for help. Cabhrú will provide two services to the Irish abroad: an emotional support helpline, and free online counselling appointments conducted on Skype.

Initially these services will be available for Irish citizens living in Australia. Once the services are established there, the aim is to provide similar services for the Irish abroad in the US and other countries.

The helpline will be open five days a week and will be manned by voluntary student counsellors from 8am to noon Irish time in order to coincide with the evening time in Australia. Initially it will be open Wednesday to Sunday, but we hope to expand it to a seven-day service in the future.

Counselling will be provided on a referral basis from the helpline and also in conjunction with other organisations working in local areas such as welfare bureaus, consulates and embassies. Each client referred can avail of six free online counselling appointments, given by qualified, insured and Garda vetted counsellors from Ireland.

For more details, or to make a donation, see helplink.ie.

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