New online professional mental health service for frontline workers launched

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD has launched a new, online professional mental health service which has been developed to support people who are working at the frontline during Covid-19.

The service, which is being provided by turn2me with funding from Sláintecare, is free and available for anyone who self identifies as a frontline worker – from healthcare professionals to those working in retail, and from teachers to tradespeople.

Founded in 2009, turn2me was the first organisation in Ireland to provide professional mental health support services entirely online. Its new service for frontline workers is a peer support, instant chat service. Each session is facilitated by a mental health professional and supported by trained volunteers.

There are 20 groups available each week and there are job specific groups available, as well as groups based on shared issues such as stress, burnout and how to maintain a healthy work life balance.  Groups are scheduled at different times in the day throughout the week to accommodate shift workers, and participants can remain anonymous when online. The content and timings of the groups were developed following consultation and discussion with frontline workers from different disciplines.

Launching the service, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD said; “It has been a difficult year for everyone across the country, but especially for our frontline workers. While the majority of people were asked to stay at home, our frontline workers went to work. Among them were our healthcare professionals who acted selflessly, putting their own health at risk, in order to care for their patients. We owe them, and all frontline workers, a debt of gratitude. These experiences will have taken a toll on many, which is why this online professional mental health service from turn2me is so important. This new service, which is funded by Sláintecare, is free for everyone who identifies as a frontline worker. I would strongly encourage any frontline worker who needs support to put their own health first and to use this service.”

Laura Magahy, Executive Director of Sláintecare, said; “One of the main goals of Sláintecare is to support innovative initiatives that help people engage in their own health and the stepped model of care provided by turn2me is a fantastic example of just that, providing the right care, at the right time and in the right place. This new peer support group for frontline workers is a targeted initiative designed to support the people who have been to the forefront of maintaining all essential public services throughout the pandemic.”

Brian Holohan, Clinical Manager with turn2me, said; “Demand for turn2me’s services has increased significantly, at the peak of the pandemic earlier this year for example, demand  spiked by 386%. It has been challenging for everyone, but especially for our frontline workers. The adverse psychological impact of working in such stressful circumstances, while at the same time dealing with the reality of Covid-19 in their personal lives, should not be underestimated. There’s a large evidence base that peer support, like the service we’re launching for frontline workers, is effective and that it can also act as a helpful gateway for people who haven’t reached out for help before. If you’ve been struggling in any way, please know that you are not alone and that talking will help. We have a team of mental health professionals and volunteers all over the country who are there to support you. Help is at your fingertips 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

As well as being facilitated by a mental health professional, peer support is an important part of the turn2me model. Elaine O’ Donoghue from Kerry is a community builder volunteer with turn2me and having worked as a teacher for more than 10 years she understands the pressures facing frontline workers. She encourages anyone who identifies as a frontline worker and who is in need of support, to try the service “Like many people, I struggle with my mental health sometimes and living in a rural part of Ireland I found it hard to find a service that was accessible. I wish I had found turn2me sooner, it really helps me to maintain good mental health. Making that first step to seek help can be hard but the anonymous nature of the turn2me service means that you can be completely honest and open, in a completely non-judgemental environment and there’s a real comfort in that when you’re feeling vulnerable or mentally unwell.  It unburdens the mind.

“Many frontline workers feel the need to maintain a brave face, and to act like they’re always confident and in control; for teachers for example, in front of the children, their parents, and your own friends and family. Admitting you’re stressed or struggling can feel like a sign of weakness but of course it’s not. Talking to other people in the same situation can really help.

Sometimes it can be hard to know where or how to start when you feel mentally unwell. All you need to do is go to your phone or laptop and logon to  The thought catcher and support groups arelike a scaffolding to help you take the first step and provide a starting point for conversation. There’s a community of people there to support you and who know what you’re going through. There’s also the option to access professional counselling.” she said.

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