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  • Southside

Tallaght counselling service sees dramatic rise in demand

Wednesday, 6th March, 2019 1:00pm
Tallaght counselling service sees dramatic rise in demand

Chair of the Village Counselling Service, Anna Lee and chief executive, Dr Marcella Finnerty, are pictured with Minister Jim Daly during a visit to Tallaght last week.

Tallaght counselling service sees dramatic rise in demand

Chair of the Village Counselling Service, Anna Lee and chief executive, Dr Marcella Finnerty, are pictured with Minister Jim Daly during a visit to Tallaght last week.

A PROPERLY resourced community-based counselling service is key to addressing the growing waiting lists for mental health services.

That’s according to the chief executive of the Village Counselling Service (VCS), Dr Marcella Finnerty. 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 last week.

The VCS is the largest community-based counselling service in the country. It was established in 2004 to provide affordable and accessible primary care mental health intervention and prevention facilities.

In its first year of operation, six therapists saw 24 clients in two portacabins at the premises of the Tallaght Welfare Society in Tallaght Village. Fifteen years later, and a team of 154 volunteer counsellors now see in the region of 2,000 clients per year, equating to more than 500 hours of counselling each week. 

Dr Finnerty said they were delighted to welcome Minister Daly to Tallaght.

“Over the past 15 years, our centre has grown at a rate we could not have imagined at its inception,” Dr Finnerty said. “And it continues to provide a high-quality, accessible, professional, affordable, community-based counselling service.

“Mental health issues don’t discriminate,” Dr Finnerty added. “The average age of our clients is 32 and our clientele are drawn from all age groups – with a current age range from six years to over 80.

“We address a broad spectrum of problems for those who need help at any stage in their lives.”

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 com-mnly 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.

Chair of the VCS, Anna Lee, explained: “One of the core values of the VCS is that money must not be a barrier to people accessing high-quality mental health care.

“However, guaranteeing a quality service, in a welcoming environment that provides warmth and privacy for our clients and for those who deliver our services, comes at a cost.

“Making the VCS’s vision for quality and accessibility real is an enormous challenge, which can only be met over the coming years if adequate resourcing is made available.”

Minister Daly commended dedication of independent, voluntary organisations such as the Village Counselling Service.

He said: “Its input is invaluable in providing support for the most vulnerable in society and in heightening awareness of the importance of research and education in this area.”

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