Jigsaw, which provides free, confidential, mental health supports for young people aged 12 to 25, is to open in Cork in 2017, writes AOIFE WHITFORD, a One Young World Ambassador
IN JULY 2015, I wrote an opinion article entitled ‘We Must Fill Gaps In Mental Health Services’, which received a huge response. I highlighted the case of a Cork teen with severe anxiety issues struggling to navigate their way through the mental health services in Cork city.
I identified a gap in service, where the teen was waiting 20 days to access the state’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHs) from their initial GP referral.
During these 20 days the young person was unable to sleep, experiencing panic attacks, could not cope with going to school or hanging out with their friends. It was a period of crisis for the teen.
The Cork teen’s parents and I were trying to do everything we could to ensure the young person received the right help and support during these 20 days, but to our dismay, we encountered a number of false starts and stops.
The young person commented that: “I felt fed up of going to places that were for the extremely anxious people or the mildly anxious ones. There was an art therapy option and no actual counselling available to me.”
In August 2015, I met with the former Minister of State for Disability, Equality and Mental Health Kathleen Lynch at her local constituency office in Blackpool and highlighted both the need and urgency for the Jigsaw service to be established in Cork. Minister Lynch promised me that the establishment of this community based service was a priority for her.
In November 2015, I wrote a second opinion article entitled: ‘Why We Need To Put Jigsaw Together’. I highlighted the mental health services working group I had formed in the School of Law, University College Cork, which advocated for the establishment of the Jigsaw service in Cork as soon as possible. The working group consisted of a number of academics, mental health experts, government agencies and representative groups working directly with the young people of Cork. We worked tirelessly to garner media attention, key influencers and the attention of the wider community to highlight this regional gap in mental health services on behalf of the young people of Cork.
In January 2016, Minister Lynch set funding aside for the new Jigsaw service in Cork city. This was a great achievement and set the wheels in motion for the establishment of the new service. My only concern at the time was that it had taken three years for Jigsaw Mayo to become fully operational, which in turn, predicated a timeline of 2019 for the completion of Jigsaw Cork. My concern was in fact short-lived, as I received confirmation that Jigsaw Cork was written into the Health Service Executive’s Business Plan as a key performance indicator for 2016. A three year timeline was replaced by a twelve month timeline and not a moment for Jigsaw to lose.
In December 2016, I received confirmation that Jigsaw will be fully operational and open its first Cork based service in the first quarter of 2017. A location has been secured in the heart of Cork city and Jigsaw is in the final stages of recruitment for its service. Jigsaw Cork will provide a safe and confidential service where young people aged 12-25 years can avail of free one-to- one support as well as accessing clear pathways to other specialist services.
Jigsaw’s My World Survey has identified that 75% of mental health difficulties emerge before the age of 24 so if specialists can get in early and provide brief supports, they can often prevent problems escalating into chronic mental health illnesses. A young person does not necessarily need a GP referral in order to avail of this service-they can either self-refer or be referred by a parent or guardian.
Over the past ten months Jigsaw has facilitated more than 50 community consultations with Cork based schools, organisations and special interest groups, which included young people from Cork Life Centre and Comhairle na nÓg.
Many people have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make the establishment of this Cork based service a reality. Jigsaw now understand the full extent of the need for the service in Cork and have determined the number of “middle risk” mental health cases amongst young people at present.
The Cork teenager is still involved with CAMHs today as they continue to attend counselling and develop coping mechanisms to deal with their anxiety. They are very proud of what this campaign has achieved.
By speaking out about their anxiety issues, it has encouraged others to come forward and share their own stories and experiences of Cork mental health services. It rallied the former Minister of State for Disability, Equality and Mental Health Kathleen Lynch and the HSE to be responsible for the expansion of mental health service provisions on a regional basis.
We cannot encourage young people to speak out about mental health issues and not have the right supports in place when they do.
Speaking out should be the hardest part; not accessing services. In 2017 when a young Corkonian speaks out they will have access to the final piece of the puzzle, which is Jigsaw.
For more information on Jigsaw please visit: www.jigsaw.ie