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01 Oct 2022

More young people in Waterford seeking mental health support in the wake of the cost-of-living crisis

More young people in Waterford seeking mental health support in the wake of the cost-of-living crisis

Jigsaw saw a 104% increase in demand for its online Live Chat service, and a 144% increase in demand for its email support

A leading youth mental health charity is warning that the double-whammy of Covid and the cost-of-living crisis means Ireland’s mental health support services are more stretched than ever before.

New data from Jigsaw reveals the growing demand for its support services. The charity’s latest Annual Report shows that 2021 saw it offer an increasing number of appointments to young people in Waterford and across Ireland, whilst also receiving its highest ever number of referrals.

Referrals to its community-based services were up by 24% year-on-year, and there was an increase of 54% on appointments offered. Additionally, Jigsaw saw a 104% increase in demand for its online Live Chat service, and a 144% increase in demand for its email support.

Worryingly, this is part of a trend reflected across Ireland’s mental health support services. In February, the HSE’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) reported a 40% increase in the number of children waiting to be seen by their services, while Pieta House reported a 20% increase in demand in the first three months of this year.

Jigsaw’s research has shown that young people were already facing considerable increases in anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of isolation and low mood before the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis. And recent analysis from the ERSI has shown the stark impact of Covid, with 40% of young men and 55% of young women classified as depressed. This is up from two years previously when 22% of men and 31% of women were depressed.

Now, on top of this, the cost-of-living crisis is deepening financial hardship for many people across Ireland with an array of rising expenses including rent, fuel and food. The impacts of financial hardship and poverty on mental health are well documented, and are backed up by Jigsaw’s own research showing financial difficulties as one of the top stressors for young people.

Jigsaw is concerned that, at a time when young people already face significant challenges to their mental health, growing pressure on mental health support services means that all too often young people are facing the additional anxiety of increasing wait times with limited support options.

Sam Kelly, a second year at Trinity College Dublin and one of Jigsaw’s volunteer Youth Advocates, says:

“At the end of 2019, I remember being so excited for the year ahead. I was going to finish my Leaving Cert, and have my first year in college. Two years later, it’s hard to keep track of all the missed milestones - no school graduation; a debs restricted to 30 people; and a first year of college spent in my parents’ house doing classes…

"I can see the stress that Covid and now the cost-of-living is putting on the people I know, and the worry and hardship it’s causing. As young people, if we need help today and ask for it, it’s no good to find ourselves waiting. That’s just another stress. If we are looking for support today, it’s because we need it today. Not in six or whatever months’ time, that is just too late.”

Sarah Cullinan, Director of Services at Jigsaw says:­

“The message is loud and clear that many of Ireland’s young people are in real distress. There is no doubt that the Covid pandemic and the cost of living crisis are taking a toll on their mental health and wellbeing.

"Every day at Jigsaw we hear from more and more young people who are feeling isolated, fearful and anxious about the future. The fact that they often struggle to get the support they need and deserve only adds to their anxiety and distress.”

In response, Jigsaw has pledged to continue to expand and look for new ways to offer its mental health supports.

The last twelve months have seen the charity open a fourteenth community-based service in Tipperary, launch its Jigsaw Schools Hub offering online resources to schools, offer its One Good School™ initiative in even more schools, and continue delivering a growing amount of information and support online through its website, jigsaw.ie

But, with the numbers of young people seeking support expected to continue to rise, the charity believes that this is not enough. The serious gaps in Ireland’s mental health supports clearly exposed by Covid and the cost-of-living crisis have been a long-time in the making, and will need serious long-term investment to address.

Jigsaw is calling for the government to act on its warning, and ensure that there is enough funding and the plans in place for the mental health services and supports that our young people need and deserve.

Dr Joseph Duffy, Chief Executive Officer at Jigsaw says:­

“The past year has highlighted, once again, that mental health services and supports in Ireland are under significant pressure. While it is encouraging to see young people reaching out for support, at Jigsaw we are increasingly concerned about the rising levels of demand across mental health support services, and the all too clear impact that we see it having on young people’s lives.

"A shortage of trained mental health professionals, not just in Jigsaw, but in the wider mental health services, continues to stretch limited resources and is impacting on the timely support we wish to offer.

"At Jigsaw, we believe in early intervention and prevention, and have long argued that communities are an area where so much more must be done to support young people’s mental health.

"Far more attention needs to be devoted to preventing mental ill-health, rather than simply intervening as it arises. Schools, sports clubs, local businesses, all the groups and organisations that make up our local communities can make a huge difference in tackling poor mental health.

"At Jigsaw, we are here to make sure that young people get the help and support they need and deserve. So we are urging the government to prioritise investment now to provide the standard of mental health support that our communities and our young people deserve.”

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