When social entrepreneurs Anne Marie Toole and Dil Wickremasinghe set up Dublin-based counselling service Insight Matters in 2011, they envisioned a diverse and inclusive centre that would make mental healthcare accessible to everybody.
“We are a family-owned practice, and we now have over 60 psychotherapists, counsellors and psychologists on our team and together we have the privilege to support the mental health of over 500 clients per week,” says Toole, clinical director at Insight Matters. “We support children, adolescents and adults with a wide range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, self-esteem, addiction and sexual difficulties. We are a progressive and inclusive practice which proudly provides support in the areas of sexuality, gender identity, neurodiversity and migrant mental health.”
The centre is located at 106 Capel Street, a building that was formerly the Capel Street Library, and its busy footfall was temporarily quietened during lockdown, a period during which the ongoing need for mental health support was widely acknowledged.
“When Covid-19 arrived in Ireland, we were confident that our service would be viewed as an essential service,” says Wickremasinghe, co-founder and director at the centre. “But at the same time we also wanted to prepare for a lockdown and wanted to find a way to continue supporting our clients through that. Over a short period, we assisted our therapists to transition to providing online counselling to our clients, and at the same time we took the necessary steps to ensure the safety of our therapists and clients by complying with guidelines and protocols. We were able to keep our centre doors open for the clients who preferred to access face-to-face counselling for as long as possible, and ultimately only closed the physical doors of our practice for three weeks, though we continued to offer support services remotely throughout.”
As the city centre now reopens and the population adjusts in the wake of the pandemic, there are challenges ahead for both businesses and individuals. The toll that the experience has taken on the mental health of the nation will only emerge in the coming months, with both the World Health Organisation and the Health Service Executive urging a renewed focus on mental health.
“The biggest challenge for Insight Matters is coping with the demand for our services at present,” says Toole. “When the pandemic hit Ireland we became acutely aware of the impact it would have on the mental health of our nation. As clinicians we knew we had to be ready for the surge in demand due to issues such as social isolation, loss of employment, relationship breakdown, bereavement and a sense of hopelessness. We knew that frontline workers did an outstanding job in caring for the people directly impacted by Covid-19 and as mental health practitioners it would be our duty to support the healing and recovery process of our nation.”
While the lockdown shifted the focus of how the therapy centre operated, it also opened up opportunities for expansion as two extra floors of the building on Capel Street became available.
“We have effectively doubled our services,” says Wickremasinghe. “We now have four floors dedicated to creating a supportive and healing space for our clients, and we are currently recruiting psychotherapists and also expanding our wellness practice to include holistic practitioners. We saw how successfully we were able to support clients through online counselling during the pandemic, so we will continue offering this service as we are now supporting clients nationwide and internationally.”
“Both of us have been on our own mental health journey, overcome adversity and experienced our own process of change,” says Wickremasinghe, “and now we are committed to supporting others on their path. We believe Insight Matters has huge potential to provide support in Ireland and beyond because of our progressive ethos and our vision of inspiring change in self and society. Individuals who work in the field of mental health are change makers: we support our clients with the process of change, we support them to transform their lives, fulfil their potential, embrace their true identity and go on to live free and fuller lives. Positive change is one thing the world needs now.”