Explore some expert insights into mental health accessibility and online innovation through our interview with specialist Lochlann Scott.
The Helplink Support Services Founder and CEO, speaking via a Zoom video link, explained how his organisation takes a unique approach to supporting mental health in Galway and the surrounding areas.
Lochlann began by explaining the work of Helplink Support Services.
“From the very beginning it has always been about creating accessibility for people when it comes to their mental health. But it is also to do with conflict resolution as well.
“We started providing services on September 10th 2012, which was World Suicide Prevention Day, starting off with four people. We now have 32 and growing.
“A lot of those would be part-timers and we have a lot of volunteers as well.
“We provide face-to-face services across County Galway and up into Mayo and Roscommon. We also provide a national service and an international online service for Irish people living abroad who are struggling with their mental health.
“We support them from home with culturally sensitive counselling.”
How did the Helplink Support Services concept, and Lochlann’s path to founding the organisation, evolve?
“I was in business most of my life, I started working at 14 waiting tables and that kind of thing. I got into the area of security and became a Security Manager for an electrical store.
“From there, I travelled to the Netherlands and supervised an Irish restaurant then opened a wine bar in Waterford.
“I sold that off and came back to Galway, then I was manager of a couple of video stores. But there was something missing so I went to college and found psychology.
“Within one lecture I was thinking ‘this is what I was supposed to be doing all along, helping people with what’s going on in their heads’. So I studied that for many years and worked in social care.
“Through doing postgraduate courses online I started to see the real merit and ease, with the right platform, of using an online approach to communicating with people and getting information out to people.”
As someone who has dyslexia, Lochlann found that the online format made sense for him. It also underlined the importance of accessibility.
“Within local health services I started seeing that there were a lot of gaps there for people who wanted to access services outside nine to five.
“I went and found my own counselling but couldn’t find a counsellor after 5pm, so I had to do my counselling on my lunch break.
“I thought ‘something has to change’, so I went and changed it. We’re still the only seven days per week and out-of-hours counselling service in Galway.
“When we open in Mayo and Roscommon we’ll be the only out-of-hours service in those counties as well.”
Lochlann explained how a blend of online and offline access can be used by a client to suit their individual needs.
“We utilise traditional tools like offices but we also use online resources, for example some of our clients might come in for one session then do the online work themselves.
“Or they are businesspeople who have their counselling sessions online when they are abroad in a hotel somewhere.
“It’s about creating something that’s available to people when they want it and when they need it, at times of the day when they can actually engage with it properly.
“We provide, within our mental health services, a suite of counselling and therapy services including bereavement counselling, couples counselling and addiction counselling.
“Last year we started doing workshops for schools, the thinking behind that was that we need to educate and provide information to people at a young age.
“They create techniques for children and young people so they can slow themselves down so they are able to think and make proper decisions.
“Our hope is to eventually bring those types of workshop online so students online so students all over the country can have access too.”
To hear more about Lochlann’s work with mental health in Ireland see our full video interview.
Helplink Support Services – www.helplink.ie
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