St Declan's College

A message from Pieta House

‘We’re still open’ - Pieta offers help for anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts during pandemic
A message from Pieta House

‘We’re still open’ - Pieta offers help for anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts during pandemic

With the introduction of social isolation in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to check in on friends and family that may be struggling to cope.

The current crisis has left many people isolated, dealing with a barrage of bad news and facing an uncertain future. It can be a testing time but the Pieta helpline provides free access to therapists for anyone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts or engaging in self-harm.

Anyone who is struggling can get help by calling the 1800247247 number at any time of night or day, according to Pieta’s Funding and Advocacy Manager, Tom McEvoy.

“We’re trying to reach out to the community to say we’re still open, that the service still exists for everyone in the community,” says Tom. “We’re really trying to implore people to continue supporting us as well so that we can keep rolling out our one-to-one counselling, albeit that it will be phone therapy at this stage through our 1800247247 number.”

A phone call can make the difference

Suicidal thoughts are something that can affect anyone at any time. It doesn’t need to be triggered by something big like a pandemic but the current situation can exasperate the strain that a person is under.

Many people are dealing with job losses, reduced working hours, loneliness, stress caused by their living arrangements, or just a heightened anxiety as a result of these exceptional circumstances. For Pieta, this has led to a high volume of calls from people looking for help.

“There is raised anxiety and the calls are coming in hot and heavy at the moment,” adds Tom. “We’ve a text number as well so people can text us if they’re finding it difficult to get through to our 1800247247 number.

“They simply have to text their name and contact details to 51444 and we’ll engage with them as soon as we possibly can. That text number is supported by a therapist as well.”

Since opening its doors in 2006, Pieta has helped almost 60,000 people who were in suicidal distress or engaging in self-harm. Its professional therapists work with people to develop coping mechanisms and offer them a new perspective on any issues that they’re trying to overcome.

It provides a vital intervention, a safe place and counselling for the people that get in touch to help them get through a crisis or a bad moment in time.

Participants at the Darkness Into Light event in the Phoenix Park in 2019. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Participants at the Darkness Into Light event in the Phoenix Park in 2019. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Look out for each other during this time

Tom also encourages people to reach out to friends or loved ones with a phone call at this testing time. Taking the time to connect with other people can make a huge difference.

“We are going to see an end to this at some point but we need to stay connected in the meantime,” he explains.

“Reach out to the vulnerable. Reach out to people who you might think are OK but a phone call might assure you of that or create a new pathway for a conversation in that person’s life that might help them through that day.

“That’s all we’re asking. Just take one day at a time and just try to help people who are a little bit more vulnerable than you are.”

If you are deeply concerned about someone you know, Pieta recommends asking them directly if they are struggling.

“We say not to hesitate in asking somebody are they suicidal. I know it’s a very, very tough question to even imagine having to ask. But if somebody is concerned about a friend or a loved one who they think isn’t in a good place, they need to confront that person and say ‘Are you suicidal?’ Just by asking that question, you can motivate somebody into action.”

For some people, it may be the first time they have considered the question or discussed these feelings with another person. If they say yes, the hope is that it can encourage them to see professional help to get through this crisis. That’s where Pieta comes in.

All of Pieta’s services are provided completely free of charge to all their service users and no hospital or GP referral is required. With almost 86pc of their funding received through fundraising from the community, they are reaching out to the community once again to help to keep their services available during this time.

Funding in a time of crisis

Darkness Into Light has become an international event that raises awareness, generates solidarity and provides much-needed funds for Pieta every May. Around 200,000 people took part in 2019 but this year’s Darkness Into Light has been postponed due to Covid-19.

Pieta had hoped to raise around €6 million from May’s event, leaving them with a huge shortfall in funding when its services are in high demand. The charity is appealing for the public’s help so it can continue to provide its life-saving services.

“It’s left a massive hole in our funding for this year, especially around now when there is raised anxiety in our community,” explains Tom. “The support is required even more than before with the type of work we do with people in crisis.

“We want to keep our therapists focused on the work that we do during this time. We’re probably talking about September time for Darkness Into Light to happen and hopefully people will continue to support us at that. But just during this time, if people could go to our website and help us and donate whatever they can afford to keep this critical work going at this time.”

If you would like to help, you can make a donation on the Pieta website. Alternatively, you can call 01 5414746 and make a donation over the phone.

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