Healing minds

Lifestyle – A counselling service set up 25 years ago in Galway and supported by former Bishop Eamonn Casey was the first of its kind in the county. Much has changed since then, but the charitable service offers a lifeline to many people. Judy Murphy hears about its work.

A Public Talk entitled Anxiety, The Modern Epidemic – How Counselling Can Help will take place on Thursday, November 2, at the Connacht Hotel in Galway City at 8pm.   The keynote speaker will be Dr Harry Barry, a GP who has written extensively on mental health issues and is a regular contributor to programmes such as the Seán O’Rourke Show on RTÉ Radio 1.

This event is being held to mark the 25th anniversary of the Pro-Consult Institute of Counselling. It’s also a fundraiser for the registered charity which is based in Cooke’s Corner in Galway City and which offers a weekly outreach facility in Clifden.

Counselling and psychotherapy can help people to cope with anxiety and stress as well as relationship problems, trauma, depression, suicidal tendencies, sexuality, cross-cultural issues, bereavement –  basically, anything that presents a problem to someone’s mental wellbeing, explains Iggy Clarke of the institute

Pro-Consult has a staff of eight accredited psychotherapists, some of whom are also Chartered Counsellors and Clinical Psychologists.

Anxiety and stress are big issues in modern life and depression is related to these, says counsellor and psychotherapist Iggy.

“We have a lot of people who are stressed and anxious about the pace of their life, relationships or finances.”

Pro-Consult’s services are available to people aged 18 and older, with individual and couple counselling being offered. While clients come from all age groups, the vast majority are aged between 21-50.

That’s down to the pressures faced by this age group, Iggy feels.

People are trying to maintain good relationships while coping with busy lifestyles – often, there are financial pressures too.

While life in Ireland years ago wasn’t always a bed of roses, the pace of today’s life and its economic demands have brought their own issues, he adds.

Until relatively recently, Irish society was agriculturally based; now people mostly live in towns and cities, with less time to relax or to engage with nature, which has a positive effect on mental health, he says.

Pro-Consult’s clients cover a broad social spectrum – from those on low income to high-earners.

During the recession, clients included people who had previously thrived during the Celtic Tiger. When the recession hit, things went “belly-up”, which presented considerable challenges to many of those people in terms of their identity, explains Iggy.

The ones who sought help were the lucky ones – not everyone does.

“There is no shortage of people with problems, but to get them in is the thing,” he says.

Pro-Consult deals with more women than men, and for many older people, too, there’s still a stigma about counselling. That’s reflected in the institute’s statistics – only a tiny percentage of its clients are over 66.

“For older people, it can be a bit of an ordeal,” Iggy observes of counselling.

But Pro-Consult does have some older clients, including farmers, and the fact that Mullagh-man Iggy is from a rural background is an asset. His career as an inter-county hurler in the 1970s and early 1980s would also earn him respect.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.