A properly resourced community-based counselling service is key to addressing the growing waiting lists for mental health services, according to Dr Marcella Finnerty, Chief Executive of the Village Counselling Service (VCS).
She was speaking as Minister of State with special responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly, visited the VCS facility in the Killinarden Enterprise Park in Tallaght, Dublin 24.
The VCS is the largest community-based counselling service in the country. It was established in 2004 to provide affordable, accessible primary care mental health intervention and prevention facilities.
In its first year of operation, six therapists saw 24 clients in two porta cabins at the premises of the Tallaght Welfare Society in Tallaght Village. Fifteen years later, a team of 154 volunteer counsellors see in the region of 2,000 clients per year, equating to more than 500 hours of counselling each week.
Issues for which clients seek help from the VCS include depression; relationship problems; chemical dependency; loss and bereavement (including working with those who have been affected by suicide); stress; self-esteem issues; sexual, physical and emotional abuse; and family concerns. Approximately 20 per cent of the service’s clients are children and adolescents, who most commonly present with problems connected with parental separation and anxiety. Given this high percentage, the VCS opened the Sarah-Jane Child and Adolescent Service in 2008, of which more than 2,000 children and teenagers have availed to date.
The VCS receives funding from the HSE, TUSLA and the National Office for Suicide Prevention, as well as contributions from clients. Clients pay what they can afford, with the average contribution amounting to €13 per session, however, many clients pay less than that, or nothing at all.
Minister, Daly said: “I would like to commend the commitment and dedication of the independent, voluntary organisations such as the Village Counselling Service, whose work brings so many benefits to the community as a whole. Its input is invaluable in not only providing support for those most vulnerable in our society, but also in heightening awareness of the importance of research and education in this area.”
The VCS offers appointments Monday to Friday from 8am to 10pm and Saturdays from 8am to 8pm. For more information, visit www.villagecounselling.ie