By Sarah Mac Donald - 18 January, 2020
A Clonmel priest who has campaigned for better mental health services in Tipperary has welcomed the news that the youth mental health services organisation – Jigsaw – will be operational in Thurles in the coming months.
In a statement on Friday, Fr Michael Toomey said he was “pleased to learn that things are progressing very well in setting up the service in Tipperary in the next few months, with plans for the hubs soon afterwards”.
He was speaking about information he learned at a meeting on Thursday in the Dáil with Sarah Cullinan, Director of Services of Jigsaw, the National Centre for Youth Mental health, Patricia Whelehan, General Manager of HSE mental health services, and with Seamus Healy, TD.
Established in 2006 as Headstrong, Jigsaw have to date supported close to 30,000 people through its services and over 200,000 through its work in communities.
Fr Toomey said he was also happy to learn at the meeting that his concern that those north and south of Thurles, who either are referred to, or refer themselves to Jigsaw, will have full access to the services no matter where they are based in Tipperary.
In highlighting the urgent need for hubs across Co Tipperary, he had previously mentioned that for a person from Clonmel to travel to Thurles by public transport takes one hour and 40 minutes each way, and even longer from Carrick-On-Suir.
“This was acknowledged, hence the importance of ensuring hubs are available as soon as possible after the unit in Thurles is opened,” Fr Toomey explained.
At the moment he is anxious that a date for when the hubs will be opened in Clonmel and Nenagh is set out. He added that these will be planned for, once the main hub in Thurles is opened and staff trained.
Other potential sites, such as Carrick-On-Suir and Roscrea will be identified, and Jigsaw have a system to highlight where such hubs have the greatest need.
As a community, he said the people of Tipperary “can help in identifying suitable premises for the future hubs in Clonmel and Carrick-On-Suir and other areas across the county.”
Speaking to CatholicIreland.net, Fr Toomey said the accommodation for these hubs required a reception and two rooms which are easily accessible. He said inquiries were already being made.
Asked when he thought the hubs would be rolled out, Fr Toomey told CatholicIreland.net, “We were initially told about a year after Thurles centre opens, but we are now more hopeful this will be quicker once things are up and running.”
He explained that Jigsaw would “assess and see where they are most needed before hubs open”.
In relation to the opening of the main unit in Thurles, he said the management are just waiting on confirmation on suitable premises.
“Once this is found, which should be very soon, the recruitment is ready to be implemented immediately. All staff are paid and will be adequately qualified for the role they have. It will obviously take a few months to complete recruitment and training, so it’s looking like early Spring when Jigsaw will be open in Thurles.”
Paying tribute to the presentation given by Jigsaw on their mission, and their delivery of services through one to one meetings and general workshops, the Clonmel priest said what was encouraging was that 25% of referrals come from young people themselves.
Before the meeting on Thursday, Fr Toomey sent a written submission from various agencies across Clonmel, including school counsellors, principals, youth workers, sports clubs and those working with youth, highlighting the current needs and challenges they see, along with their hope for a Jigsaw hub in the area.
Most, he said, highlighted the challenges for young people as including coping skills, social media, drugs, sexual identity, bullying, breakdown of family relationships, and self-harm.