Monday 23 September 2019

Counselling our youth

The North Dublin Drugs and alcohol task force is partnering with the local community to expand youth counselling services to new areas of Fingal

Partnering with local communities to deliver youth counselling services is something the North Dublin Regional Drugs and Alcohol Task Force is already doing with success in Skerries and now the organisation is launching a similar service for the Malahide, Portmarnock and Kinsealy area.

Head of the organisation, Brid Walsh explained: 'We have never been more aware of the mental health challenges for young people and the terrible consequences when help is not received.

'The North Dublin Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force is very focussed on this as part of its prevention strategy.

'With that in mind, we launched a second community based Youth Counselling Service in Fingal.

'This service is for young people in Kinsealy, Malahide and Portmarnock areas.

'The Task Force committed to providing a one day a week confidential service free of charge for young people aged 12-18years who are experiencing challenges to their positive mental health.'

Brid explained: 'Key to its success is the partnership with the local community.

'The Task Force established SÁMH (Substance Abuse & Mental Health) groups around North Fingal in an effort to work more closely with local communities to achieve a 'SAOL SÁMH' for its residents.

'This community co-production began in Skerries. In 2017 the Task Force via its Skerries SAMH established a one day a week Youth Counselling Service in the area.

'Demand was so high that in 2018 Skerries Youth Support Service through its vigorous fundraising then partnered with the Task Force to fund a second day and in fact have been so successful with their fundraising efforts it has increased to 3.5 days.'

Darragh O'Brien TD, is chair of the Task Force and he is keen to see the same community buy in for the service in this SÁMH area.

The Task Force has committed to setting up a one day a week service in both Skerries and now this new area.

Deputy O'Brien said: 'We will be looking to the communities of Kinsealy, Malahide and Portmarnock to partner with us on this.'

'To that end the SÁMH has hold a static cycle in September to fundraise to increase the level of service provided and hopes that the local community will support this badly needed service for young people in the area.

'We owe it to our children to invest in their positive mental health,' the local TD said.

He stressed that this is part of an overall health promotion and prevention strategy for the Task Force.

Deputy O'Brien said: 'This initiative is an exciting part of our work programme.

'The Task Force is fully committed to its part in providing the service and plans to roll out youth counselling across the north county area in partnership with local communities.

'We will be working with Cllr Tony Murphy who chairs the Balbriggan SÁMH to develop a service in Balbriggan next.'

The Signs are good for the newly launched service with the community already coming together to look at its expansion.

According to the task force, over €4,000 has been raised between a quiz in St Sylvester's GAA and a family fun run organised by volunteers from the club.

'What a great start to the community action,' said Fingal Mayor, Eoghan O' Brien who chairs the Malahide/Portmarnock SAMH.

He said: 'This community spirit translates directly into youth counselling sessions for young people in the community struggling with their positive mental health.

'It doesn't get more meaningful than that.'

There was a real buzz at the launch event with Depty Darragh O'Brien and newly elected council Mayor Eoghan O'Brien, Cllr Tony Murphy, Cllr Anne Graves and Cllr Seana O'Rodaigh there along with local SÁMHs, schools, sports clubs and other community members to share the positive news.

Commenign on the launch of the new service, Brid Walsh said: 'This is all about communities coming together to support their own children.

JP Browne the chair of the Skerries SAMH and chair of SYSS (Skerries Youth Support Service) was there and shared the experience of Skerries where the Task Force set up the youth counselling service for one day a week and the demand was so high that within months of opening the service there was a waiting list so Skerries Youth Ssupport Serrvices did some rigorous fundraising and fast forward to 2019 and it is now a 3.5 day service.

'The Task Force still pays for the one day but in fact the community via SYSS and some big donations is pulling in enough funding to cover the additional 2.5days

'The Service has just opened in Malahide or the Kinsealy, Portmarnock and Malahide area and again the Task Force is covering one day a week and the hope is that the local communities will get behind it to increase that.

'Even before the service had opened our Malahide/Portmarnock SAMH and St Sylvester's GAA have €4,000 raised towards extra days.

'It's really powerful because by doing this the community itself has ownership over the response to supporting their childrens positive mental health.

'Our next SAMH area to set up the service will be in Balbriggan and we are already planning that in conjunction with its chair Cllr Tony Murphy.'

She added: 'Its fit with our work is that it is a small but important 'upstream' investment as part of our health promotion and prevention strategy.

'Through this early intervention initiative we are trying to increase protective factors and reduce risk factors for future problems.'

In a previous interview with the Fingal Independent, one of the founding member of the Skerries Youth Support Services who partnered the task force in delivering youth counselling in Skerries, talked about the demand for the service locally and how it important it is to the young people it reaches.

Michael Matthews said: 'Counselling has always been the biggest problem, because in some cases people can't afford it.

'So the Drug and Alcohol Task Force had agreed to put a counsellor in place for us for twelve months, we said we'd fund a second day, and now we've enough funding to do another day and a half.

'So we have three and a half days with our own counsellor based in Skerries, dealing with people who have various mental health issues.

'At the moment, there's a three month waiting list, with more and more people coming in, so the fact that we can go to three and a half days a week will allow us to see up to fifteen people a week.'

Michael says he's not sure whether there's been an increase in demand for SYSS' service, but rather that more and more people in the town have simply become aware of the service.

Generally, he says, counselling consists of between six to eight sessions with each client. Michael eventually hopes, he says, to extend the service to five days per week, but that expansion of the service is 'all about funding.'

The service, Michael says, is in a 'constant battle' to get funding, but nevertheless receives generous support from the people of Skerries.

Michael says problems presenting in counselling are across a broad spectrum of issues, including anxiety, depression, sexual orientation, eating disorders and self-harm. If you 'looked across the top ten list of problems with kids in Ireland', he says, 'you'd find they're all there.'

He says: 'In my experience, there's a lot more cases of suicide out there than you'd think. People have no idea how to access these services in some cases. There are some great people working out there, people for suicide prevention and people in the HSE, but they're overrun in some cases, and that's the problem. They're just not able to handle the numbers.'

Fingal Independent