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Pieta House inundated with 10,000 calls since Covid-19

Support: Crisis helplines busy

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Worries: Crisis advice centres are seeing huge numbers of callers

Worries: Crisis advice centres are seeing huge numbers of callers

Worries: Crisis advice centres are seeing huge numbers of callers

CRISIS advice organisation Pieta House has been inundated with more than 10,000 calls from people with suicidal thoughts or seeking help for depression since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Similar organisations, such as the Samaritans, are reporting increasing volumes of people struggling with their mental health since the start of lockdown earlier this year.

World Suicide Prevention Day was marked last week and Pieta House has launched a campaign for the months of September and October to increase public awareness as the bleak winter months roll in.

Pieta House's 'Signs of Suicide' is a public awareness drive to help people identify what signs to watch and listen out for if someone they know is considering taking their own life.

Sam Cower, clinical director with Pieta House, tells the Sunday World that Pieta - which runs 15 centres and five outreach facilities - had to adapt to the arrival of Covid.

"I think, like every organisation, Covid has brought with it a number of hurdles to kind of overcome and a number of difficulties we have had to overcome," he explains.

"We moved all of our service to do therapy over the phone which was a shift, we hadn't done phone therapy before.

"So there was quite a learning curve there to be able to offer phone therapy for everyone."

The new service has helped those who could not attend their centres due to transportation or location problems.

"Going forward it is something we are going to continue to offer and serve that extra population we weren't able to reach before, as well as slowly reintroducing face to face therapy in our centres in the best way possible," he adds.

"We are also piloting video therapy, so we can see people face to face over the phone, while we are starting to do face to face meetings again in our centres while adhering to HSE guidelines."

Pieta offers a wide service.

"Our 24 hour crisis helpline deals with suicidal ideation, people with kind of suicidal thoughts [that] they want to harm themselves," he says.

"Since March we have had about 10,000 calls."

He points to Covid statistics from China, which show that 28.8 per cent of people were reporting moderate to severe anxiety with 35 per cent saying they had psychological distress.

In the US about 45 per cent of adults said they would be negatively impacted by worry or stress.

"There have been some studies by NUI Galway, it's called the Wave studies. In terms of stress, they would say 10 per cent of households would say there was an increase of stress in the household. Around 60 per cent of respondents would say they were more anxious than previously."

Many people have been affected economically, either by being furloughed or losing their jobs.

"The job situation has been a major worry, combined with the worry about what the future holds in terms of the economy," he admits.

"Loneliness is a huge factor in people's well being and mental health," he reflects. "Loneliness is really important and it can be really damaging to people, so that sense of being connected and being part of something is really important.

"Places where people used to go to get that social interaction, the gym, the pub, that sense of community. The older population struggled."

To contact Pieta House 24/7 call FREE on 1800 247 247 TEXT HELP to 51444

To donate long on to pieta.ie

The Samaritans' freephone number is 116123