A leading youth mental health charity is warning that Ireland’s mental health support services are more stretched than ever before due to the double-whammy of Covid and the cost-of-living crisis.
Jigsaw’s latest Annual Report shows that 2021 saw the charity offer an increasing number of appointments to young people, while it also received 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.
The charity has said that worryingly, this is part of a trend reflected across Ireland’s mental health support services.
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.
Sarah Cullinan, Director of Services at Jigsaw, said that the message is loud and clear that many of Ireland’s young people are in real distress.
She said 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,” said Sarah.
“The fact that they often struggle to get the support they need and deserve only adds to their anxiety and distress.”
Sam Kelly, a second year at Trinity College Dublin and one of Jigsaw’s volunteer Youth Advocates, said: “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.”
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 to even more schools, and continue delivering a growing amount of information and support online through its website, jigsaw.ie
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.