Substantial rise in number of young people seeking Pieta’s support

Pandemic uncertainty and body image among causes of surge, charity says

Demand for Pieta’s services from under-18s is up 42 per cent so far in 2021, according to the organisation

Demand for Pieta’s services from under-18s is up 42 per cent so far in 2021, according to the organisation


The number of young people in need of crisis help from Pieta is more than double what it was at this time last year, the charity has said.

Demand for the services of the organisation, which offers support to those at risk of self-harm, is up 42 per cent among people aged under 18 over the course of 2021. Overall need is now greater than in previous years, with pandemic uncertainty and body image among the causes, the charity said.

The upward trend has been continuing across its 20 centres, 24/7 crisis helpline and online therapy service.

Overall demand for Pieta’s services, including those helping to deal with suicide ideation, has grown by 22 per cent since last year, with 4,620 people across age groups seeking support so far this year.

“Typically, we see a decrease in our under-18s attending Pieta over the summer months; however, this year this has not been the case,” said Emma Dolan, the charity’s clinical director.

“While every case is different, we know it has been a very challenging year for young people, with the additional pandemic uncertainty leading to more anxiety generally. Children and adolescents are more concerned about their future and we have also seen a rise in body-image issues.”

Online services

Since the beginning of the pandemic the charity has adapted its services online, offering phone and video therapy to supplement normal in-person delivery. The recent increase in demand has prompted it to begin hiring more psychotherapists who can work with young people and help cut waiting lists, and more therapists to provide free counselling.

Leigh Kenny, its Dublin regional manager, has pointed out that the full psychological impacts of the pandemic on people are not yet known but that the organisation has seen an increase in the number of people struggling with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and body image.

In tandem with UCD and the National Office of Suicide Prevention, the charity is currently developing improved psycho-education supports for parents of young people experiencing self-harm.

It is due to launch its Know the Signs campaign later this month, aimed at helping people recognise key warning signs such as when someone is talking about suicide, saying they feel like a burden, withdrawing from friends or becoming more anxious.

“We also always advise [people] to contact or refer to an appropriate service for help and support, and if the concern is immediate, contact emergency services,” Ms Dolan said.

If you are affected by any issue in this article, please contact Pieta House on 1800-247247 or the Samaritans by telephoning 116123 (free) or by emailing