Celebrating Mental Health: Learn how SOSAD Ireland is providing free counselling services to people


Millions of people around the world suffer from mental health issues. Despite this, mental health is still stigmatized. Mental health issues are exacerbated by stigma and discrimination. It can come from a variety of sources, including society, employers, the media, and even our friends and family members. You may even develop internalized stigma, in which you accept negative messages or preconceptions about yourself.

Mental health includes our complete emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects our day-to-day patterns of feelings, thoughts, and actions. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 1 in 5 U.S. adults experiences mental illness.

Over the years, various efforts have been made to increase awareness and battle the social stigma around the sensitive issue. Although these efforts have led to tremendous improvement, the average delay between the onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years.

In our recent interview to celebrate World Mental Health Day, we took some time to catch up with Christine Wynne, Coordinator, SOSAD Ireland.

Let’s begin with a fundamental question- what is mental health?

AChristine Wynne: Our mental health is very relevant to all of us from when we open our eyes in the morning to when we close our eyes at night. It is about your well-being and knowing your abilities and being able to cope with the normal stresses of everyday life.

How is SOSAD advocating for mental health?

AChristine Wynne: We see a range of people. So, our prevention piece is at the very beginning when we ask people to reach out for help. We do this so that a bad day doesn’t suddenly turn into a bad week, and then into a bad month.

Other than our counselling service, we offer our phone line with a text messaging service. We have suicide bereavement groups, we have young people matter groups, we do some DBT (dialectical terrible behaviour) groups.

Whatever brings somebody on their journey for counselling or needing the support of SOSAD doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not easy to solve in one session. It takes time, commitment, and dedication.

Are the services provided by SOSAD free or paid for? How do you fund programs?

AChristine Wynne:  All of our services are completely free. We don’t charge because not everyone is in a position to pay. Instead of asking one person to pay and another person not to pay, we have evened it out across the board.

People make donations to us. We also get funded by fundraisers or people coming in making donations, even if they’re not clients here. That’s why our service is completely free.

Was there a surge in the demand for mental health services offered by SOSAD during the pandemic?

AChristine Wynne: During COVID-19, we offered our services remotely, so we did zoom calls and phone calls and stuff like that. We did see a huge rise in demand because people were put into scenarios that they have never been in before.

When things started to open up again, people were so anxious about going back into the environment and going back into the public.

People across all age groups were affected. So, our service was offered on phone lines. What we normally would have done face-to-face here pre-pandemic, like contact with counsellors, is now done remotely. As a result, our services have increased.

Does lifestyle play a role in the rising cases of mental health issues?

AChristine Wynne: Sometimes there are, as you said, hereditary issues when it comes to the likes of say, schizophrenia, and diseases as such. But sometimes mental health issues are learned behaviour.

When it comes to monitoring children, engage them in a conversation and present facts. They do not want to be dictated to, none of us want to be told what to do at any age unless there’s an explanation first. We seem to think that because they’re minors in the eyes of the law, and they’re our children, we own them, and we can dictate to them.

That is the wrong way to approach it – we need to treat them as individuals.

Most people understand mental health as just anxiety and depression. What would you say to these folks?

AChristine Wynne: It is not necessary for someone who has mental health issues to have these issues their entire life. The belief that a person who faced mental health issues at some point is always plagued by it is the biggest myth. We are all different and what makes us different is how we handle our issues. That comes with awareness, empathy, and education.

The other myth is that people think that mental health automatically goes hand-in-hand with medication. Of course, sometimes medication is needed. But just because you might have been given a prescription doesn’t mean you’re going to be on it forever.

And another thing is, not everyone who is depressed will become suicidal. And not everyone who has attempted suicide has necessarily been depressed. They don’t go hand-in-hand, they are two different things.

Here is a fact – there is no shame in having mental health issues. Because it is an illness of the body, it’s just a different part of the body that we can’t see.

What are some ways in which volunteers can add value to your nonprofit?

AChristine Wynne: The biggest thing I think people could do to help is through education. One of the best ways to educate yourself in any field is to speak to somebody who has walked that path.

They just have walked a different journey – so find out from them, what works for them, and most importantly, what didn’t work for them. Talking to people, educating oneself, and being non-judgmental help.

Is there a message you’d like to leave for potential volunteers?

AChristine Wynne: The value that a volunteer brings to a therapist is second to none. I think the very reason for that is that volunteers care about the cause and love it enough to give their whole heart to it.

This world – I know our organization in particular – but the world, in general, would be very, very poor, without volunteers. Volunteer contribution is much undervalued. Especially with SOSAD here, I see the work that volunteers do daily. Their conscious decision to volunteer is what makes the world go round for many people.

Learn how you can raise your voice and make an effect with Goodera

We have numerous volunteer activities planned at Goodera to engage volunteers around the subject of Mental Health Awareness. This topic asks us to raise awareness regarding mental health, educate ourselves and others on the issue, and be there for those who need us.

You can help SOSAD by participating via Goodera’s virtual volunteering experience. The experience is powerful and engaging, making it an excellent choice for getting you started on your virtual volunteering adventure.

Interested? Reach out to us here.

Are you a nonprofit looking for volunteers? We can help! Talk to us.

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