Three Ireland has entered into a three-year partnership with Jigsaw, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health in Ireland, that will see the mobile operator provide funding and technological expertise to assist in the creation of eJigsaw, an innovative digital portal to support the mental health needs of young people.
Jigsaw may be better known to many people under its original name of Headstrong. Established in 2006, it offers free evidence-driven mental health supports for young people aged 12-25 through a nationwide network of 13 regional hubs.
The charity supports young people with emerging mild to moderate mental health issues to develop the coping skills and resilience that help them to deal with challenges to their mental health.
"eJigsaw will be a first-of-its-kind digital portal," explains Jigsaw chief executive Dr Joseph Duffy.
“It will provide a range of mental health support and information to educate and equip communities in helping young people and give direct support to young people at the time when they most need it.
“Delivering eJigsaw has been an ambition of ours for some time,” he adds. “It will give us the opportunity to reach and support even more young people who are struggling to cope. Our new partnership with Three will give us the technical and financial support to make this ambition a reality.”
The choice of Jigsaw as a charity partner was the result of a consultation process, according to Three chief commercial officer Elaine Carey.
“When we set about looking for our new charity partner we surveyed our employees, customers and the general public and asked them what issue mattered most to them and mental health received an overwhelming response. The partnership with Jigsaw will help us contribute to this issue and deliver a tangible benefit through the digital portal that will provide young people with better connectivity to help and support when they need it.”
The importance of developing a portal like eJigsaw was highlighted by the results of Three’s recent Connected Ireland report which was based on a survey of 1,000 smartphone users in Ireland.
“With young people living more and more of their lives online, eJigsaw will provide them with the help and support that they may need, through a medium that they are comfortable with”, says Carey.
“This demographic relies on their smartphones like no other generation and look to it to enhance their lives. Our Connected Ireland report found the majority say their smartphone helps their relationships with partners (56 per cent), helps them relax (59 per cent) and helps them to switch off (58 per cent).
“The research also showed that this generation sees the health benefits of smartphones with 65 per cent saying said that they would like to be able to seek medical consultations online while 33 per cent said they would use their smartphone to help them become more mindful or improve their mental wellbeing”, she adds.
The new portal will help Jigsaw extend its reach to more young people who may be in need of its services, according to Duffy.
“Our experience is that every five years or so younger people become more willing to talk about their feelings and concerns and they also become much more tech savvy. We are supporting around 5,000 young people directly and we want to reach much more. That’s where the eJigsaw idea came from. It will extend our reach, keep us relevant, and improve accessibility.”
The portal is aimed at a wider audience as well.
“It will give us the ability to reach young people and their parents and the other people who are supporting them”, says Duffy. “There is the concept of good adults in young people’s lives and we want to give those people evidence-based information about mental health.”
The eJigsaw portal will be rolled out in phases. It is hoped to have the initial offering up and running by the end of the year. This will provide a range of information and training and education tools as well as signposts for support to young people and others. The second phase will offer more guided support while in the third phase it is hoped to have live chat and other direct contact facilities.
“Ultimately, we want to be able to offer everything we do offline on the portal”, says Duffy. “We have to see if we have the resources to have a 24-hour service but that would be an ambition.”
Carey points out that new technologies such as AI could assist with resource management and other facets of the service to make this possible.
“This is where our technological expertise can help. The partnership is more than just about funding. There is also the volunteer aspect. We have 1,400 employees in Three and the willingness among them to support Jigsaw in its work is tremendous. Part of our goal with the partnership is to change the way Ireland thinks about mental health and this is a very good start.”
Duffy emphasises the importance of crucial support like this.
“Having funding and volunteer support from partners like Three and MSD is great. Resources are always a problem for charities and this really helps.”