Jigsaw, youth mental health charity, is warning that a record number of young people are reaching out to services due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis.
New data from Jigsaw’s 2021 annual report shows growing demand for its support services as the charity received its highest number of referrals over the past year. Referrals to community-based services increased by a quarter last year, and appointments offered increased 54 percent.
Demand for Jigsaw’s online live chat service has more than doubled over the past year, up 104 percent, while demand for its email support has also increased 144 percent. Jigsaw said this “worrying” trend was reflected in Ireland’s mental health support services.
In February, the HSE’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) reported a 40 per cent increase in the number of children waiting to be treated by their services, while Pieta House saw a 20 per cent increase in demand in the first reported three months of this year.
Jigsaw research has shown that even before the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis, young people were facing significant increases in anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of isolation and low spirits.
Sam Kelly, a sophomore at Trinity College Dublin and one of Jigsaw’s volunteer youth advocates, says the impact of Covid and the cost of living crisis on young adults is apparent.
“I remember at the end of 2019 I was so excited for the year to come. I wanted to complete my leaving cert and have my freshman year of college. Two years later, it’s hard to keep track of all the missed milestones — no high school diploma; a debs limited to 30 people; and a freshman year of college taught at my parents’ house…
“I can see the stress that Covid and now the cost of living is putting on people I know and the worry and difficulty this is causing. If we as young people need help today and ask for it, it is not good to wait. That’s just another stress. If we’re looking for support today, it’s because we need it today. Not in six months or whatever, that’s just too late,” Sam said.
Jigsaw is concerned that at a time when young people are already facing significant mental health challenges, the growing pressure on mental health support services means that young people are all too often left with the added fear of increased wait times with limited support options are faced.
Sarah Cullinan, Director of Services at Jigsaw, said the message was “loud and clear that many of Ireland’s young people are in real need”.
“There is no doubt that the Covid pandemic and the cost of living crisis are affecting their mental health and well-being.
“Every day at Jigsaw, we hear from more and more young people who are feeling isolated, anxious and worried about the future. The fact that they often struggle to get the support they need and deserve only adds to their fear and distress,” Ms Cullinan said.
In response, Jigsaw has pledged to continue to expand and look for new ways to offer its mental health support. In the past 12 months, the charity has opened a fourteenth community-based service in Tipperary and launched its Jigsaw Schools Hub, which offers online resources for schools.
As the number of young people seeking support is expected to continue to rise, Jigsaw warns that this is not enough.
“The past year has shown once again that mental health services and support in Ireland are under significant pressure,” said Dr. Joseph Duffy, Chief Executive Officer of Jigsaw.
“While it is encouraging to see young people seeking support, at Jigsaw we are increasingly concerned about the increasing demand for mental health support services and the all too clear impact we believe they are having on young people’s lives.
“A shortage of trained mental health professionals, not just at Jigsaw but across the broader mental health services, continues to strain limited resources and impact the timely support we aim to provide.
“At Jigsaw, we believe in early intervention and prevention and have long argued that communities are an area where so much more needs to be done to support the mental health of young people. Much more attention needs to be paid to preventing mental illness rather than simply intervening when it occurs. Schools, sports clubs, local businesses, all the groups and organizations that make up our local communities can make a huge difference when it comes to preventing bad ones addressing mental health.
“At Jigsaw, we’re here to make sure young people get the help and support they need and deserve. That’s why we call on the government to prioritize investment now to provide the standard of mental health support that our communities and our young people deserve. said Dr. duffy
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/record-numbers-of-young-people-seeking-mental-health-support-in-wake-of-pandemic-and-cost-of-living-crisis-42001521.html Record numbers of young people seeking mental health support after pandemic and cost of living crisis