Pieta, (formerly known as Pieta House), is a non-profit organisation that provides a professional one-to-one therapeutic service to people who are in suicidal distress, those who engage in self-harm, and those bereaved by suicide. The organisation, set up in 2006 by Joan Freeman, an Irish psychologist, mental health activist and independent politician – now has over 200 qualified counsellors based in 15 centres throughout the country.
I spoke to Cathy Drummond, the assistant campaigns manager at Pieta and she informed me that in 2020, despite their main fundraiser ‘Darkness Into Light‘ not going ahead due to COVID 19, “Pieta delivered 52,000 hours of suicide intervention and bereavement counselling, answered over 70,000 crisis support calls and texts, and directly supported over 600 households impacted and bereaved by suicide.” What’s particularly astonishing is that Pieta provides all of these services free of charge. Yes, you read that correctly. There are other organisations who provide free mental health support services also and many of them have free phone and text lines. Some, are primarily listening and information services and others also offer some counselling. Here are some of these organisations: ‘The Samaritans‘, ‘Aware’, ‘Grow’, ‘Turn2me’ , ‘Bodywhys’, ‘Shine’, ‘Childline’, and many more.
As it stands if someone is in suicidal distress and needs to speak to someone other than a family member or friend, they either have to call a helpline for help or go to A&E. A&E is not ideal. The wait may be very long and quite often a Psychiatrist may not be available right away. Unfortunately it is safe to say that mental health is hugely under funded and under resourced in Ireland. It is also very disappointing that we cannot rely on the HSE to provide the services and supports that are required for those in crisis. Fortunately though, there are organisations, such as Pieta, who have stepped up to provide help and support to those who have been somewhat failed by their public health system.