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Friday 18 October 2019

Counselling service forced to turn young people away

Donal Walsh: his moving words inspired the nation
Donal Walsh: his moving words inspired the nation
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

A COUNSELLING service for teenagers and young adults has been forced to turn people away due to a lack of certainty over its future.

This comes at a time when more young people than ever are looking for professional help to cope with mental health difficulties, inspired by the message of the late Donal Walsh, who appealed to his peers to value life.

Cuan Counselling in Dingle, Co Kerry – Donal's home county – had been due to close its doors at the end of the month but a once-off €12,000 cash injection from the Health Service Executive (HSE) has meant it will remain open until the end of the summer.

Donal (16), who had terminal cancer, died last Sunday. He made a moving appeal to young people to appreciate life and he inspired the nation when he spoke publicly about his anger about suicide, when he was holding on to every minute of life he could.

Some of his final notes were published in the Irish Independent at the weekend, revealing a young man filled with positivity and courage despite his cruel illness.

Sadly, just one week after his death, the future of a centre dedicated to supporting people struggling with mental health issues remains uncertain.

Meanwhile, a recruitment drive by the HSE to fill counsellor/therapist positions all over the country has been criticised because of the minimum qualifications it requires of applicants that rule out many accredited psychotherapists. The jobs being advertised require applicants to have a degree in a healthcare profession other than psychotherapy.

The Irish Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (IACP), which represents over 3,600 professionals, says many eminently qualified people are immediately disqualified from applying.

Professional services manager with the IACP, Shane Kelly, said the situation was frustrating for many of its members but there was nothing they could do as the HSE could decide its own criteria. "We'd love to know their logic for it as it rules out many very qualified and experienced psychotherapists," he told the Irish Independent.


Cuan Counselling was set up in 2008 in Dingle and provides counselling for 40 vulnerable young people between the ages of 12 and 25. The numbers seeking their help have tripled in the past six months.

"We've had to turn people away, which is devastating for them," counsellor Sinead Kavanagh said. "The nearest other services are in Tralee – 50km away – but a lot of people don't leave the peninsula because they can't afford to."

Ms Kavanagh said maintaining the service would offer more value for the HSE than setting up an outreach service from Tralee. All the administration is done by a voluntary board and Cuan operates out of rent-free offices.

Cuan is not funded by the HSE and relies on donations.

Irish Independent

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