Ireland’s Social, Cultural Environment Is Harmful to Mental Health

By Patricia Harty, Editor-in-Chief
April / May 2014

Cuts to services, fear of crime, and loneliness brought on by emigration of loved ones have led to a huge surge in calls to a helpline for the elderly, The Irish Examiner reported at the end of January.

Senior Helpline is the country’s only listening service for older people. In 2013, the center received more than 28,500 calls.
The 345 volunteers who run the organization saw that the pain of emigration is having a huge impact, particularly followed by fears of attacks after a spate of robberies aimed at older people, most commonly among those living alone in isolated areas.

Senior Helpline CEO Aine Brady said, “We will do our best to help them find a voice and share their problem or to break the cycle of loneliness.” However, Third Age, the group that runs the service, has seen its core funding from the HSE, Ireland’s national health service, reduced. But, thanks to support form Atlantic Philanthropies, Third Age is now embarking on a major restructuring program and recruitment of more volunteers, as currently it is possible to manage only half of the calls received.

The Examiner also reported that St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services saw a 47 percent increase in calls relating to adolescent mental health last year.

Clinical psychologist Paul Gilligan said a constant diet of negative commentary is damaging children’s mental health. “We are being constantly reminded of how badly Irish society has ‘messed up’ and how long it is going to take for us to recover,” he said. “Some commentators are talking of a lost decade.

“Our young people are not immune to these factors and the sad truth is this destructive environment is serving to destroy their mental health. We need to change the story.”

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