Free Skype counselling for lonely Irish offered in Australia and Canada

Emigrants 'less likely' to access support services abroad than they would in Ireland

Irish citizens in Australia and Canada can avail of up to six free sessions with a qualified therapist. Photograph: iStock

Irish citizens in Australia and Canada can avail of up to six free sessions with a qualified therapist. Photograph: iStock

 

Moving abroad can be a great experience and bring exciting new opportunities, but it can also result in loneliness, homesickness, or feelings of isolation and depression.

Last year, a new service providing free online counselling for emigrants was made available for Irish people living in Australia, and this week, the service will be offered in Canada also.

Clients can avail of up to six free appointments over Skype with a qualified Irish counsellor.

Cabhrú (which means help or support in Irish) is operated by Helplink.ie, a non-profit organisation which provides phone and online counselling to clients in Ireland.

Helplink.ie’s founder Lochlann Scott says some Irish people living abroad may be less inclined to seek mental health supports where they live than they might have been 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.”

More than 200 Irish clients living in Australia have availed of the service since it began last September, either through email conversations with a counsellor, or online video appointments.

“The most common issues arising are depression, loneliness or feelings of isolation,” Scott says.

“These are often coupled with addiction, including gambling, alcohol and to a lesser extent, prescription or illegal drugs.”

A significant number of clients in Australia are working in the mines on fly in, fly out contracts, “where depression and addictions are very prevalent due to the difficult work-life balance”, he says.

Helplink plans to extend the Cabhrú service to the US by the end of the year, followed by the UAE, Asia and Europe in 2018.

They are also working with Crosscare Migrant Project, Safe Home Ireland and the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas to source funding to offer sessions to Irish citizens who are returning to live in Ireland.

Cabhrú is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Emigrant Support Programme, and supported by Crosscare Migrant Project, the GAA and other Irish sports groups, Irish bars, and Irish support organisations in Australia and Canada.

Scott says that from their experience and the feedback received so far, there is “a desperate need for the service”.

Scott says the service will be particularly helpful for undocumented Irish people living in the US - and in Australia where the number of Irish without visas is growing - especially in light of the recent tightening of immigration law enforcement under the Trump regime.

“Up to recently, the undocumented were far more likely to attend the drop-in support centres, but now they are scared of repercussions. An online service like ours can be a lifeline to some of the most vulnerable Irish emigrants.”

For more information on how to apply, see helplink.ie/cabhru

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