THE surge in Covid-19 cases has led to a doubling of demand for the services of Lisheens House.
A spokesperson for the community mental health charity said the number of calls doubled shortly after the number of confirmed cases peaked at over 8,000.
There has been a steady increase in demand for the organisation’s free counselling service, especially during lockdowns, but from January 11th to 17th the numbers doubled, according to Lisheens House manager Mick Kearns.
‘It’s not just the increase in the number that is a cause of concern, it is also the tone – there is a lot more anxiety, worry and fear,’ he said.
The charity provides people with the number of a counsellor that can be selected from a panel.
The number of people seeking the service returned, last week, to an average of around 20 per week.
‘There is a common theme to all the calls,’ said Mick. ‘It’s about Covid-19 and how close it is to home all of a sudden.
‘Most know someone now who has died. It makes it very real, when you can put a face, or a name, to the person who has died.
‘There are also stories of whole families and groups contracting the virus, with some people getting sicker than others.
‘It’s affecting young and old alike and that is the cause of a lot of fear for families,’ said Mick, who confirmed they can see people as young as 13 provided they come through an adult. ‘Children are experiencing increased anxiety about not going out and their Leaving Certificate.’
The manager appealed to people not to believe false information. He claimed social media is ‘developing a blame game where people are blaming each other for the spread of the virus.’
There is confusion, too, around self-isolation. He said: ‘Social media has taken on a policing of others in the community and this has led to an increase in fear and stigma around the virus.
‘We have to work together,’ he added. ‘Division within the community is not at all helpful. We are appealing to people to rely on trusted news sources locally and nationally for their information.’
Lisheens House continues to raise funds by selling furniture from its Skibbereen and Clonakilty outlets online, but ‘if anyone is thinking of an online fundraiser’, the manager added, ‘we would be delighted if they would think of us.
‘It would allow us to continue because we don’t have infinite reserves. So far, we are managing, but we don’t know how long it will go on,’ Mr Kearns added.