Dr. Tony Bates talks about Headstrong and youth mental health

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Headstrong – The National Centre for Youth Mental Health has received one million Euro from the HSE to open six new Jigsaw sites in Donegal, Offaly, Clondalkin, Tallaght, North Fingal and Dublin 15. The funding was first announced in Budget 2011 in December 2010. This will allow Headstrong to replicate its already successful Jigsaw model which creates safe spaces in communities where young people can access a wide range of mental health supports for free. 

The Jigsaw Programme was designed by Headstrong and its panel of youth advisors and is an evidence based, integrated model designed to strengthen a community’s capacity to support young people’s mental health. It works on a partnership model of pulling together and aligning all existing resources and expertise in any given community. A total of 16 communities from all over Ireland submitted applications to be selected as Jigsaw projects which were rigorously assessed against key readiness criteria. The remaining 10 communities will all be offered a programme of support.  Jigsaw sites are already up and running in Counties Galway, Roscommon, Kerry, Meath and Ballymun in Dublin.

Speaking at the announcement of the funding recently, Ms. Kathleen Lynch, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People, said, “We are very keen to be as proactive as we possibly can in developing and promoting better services to support young people’s mental health”. 75% of mental health difficulties emerge before the age of 24. This is a critical period in their development and if we can identify issues as they emerge then research tells us that early and brief intervention prevents people from experiencing lifetimes of pain and lost opportunities.”

Minister Lynch added, “Jigsaw’s extension means that Young People will get help earlier and prevent unnecessary potentially very serious problems for them in their day to day lives.”

Dr. Tony Bates, Founding Director of Headstrong said “Today’s announcement is really significant support for youth mental health. It endorses Headstrong’s work to improve local access to systems and supports for the mental health of Ireland’s young people. Thousands will benefit from talking therapy, individual and family support. Jigsaw also reaches out in its communities to strengthen everyone’s response to mental health need. A lot of our work rests on capacity building, up skilling professionals and enhancing mental health awareness in the community so that only a tiny percentage of young people require hospitalisation.”

“Headstrong’s relationship with the HSE in terms of growing this model is the seal of approval for Jigsaw as the national standard.” Dr. Tony Bates, Founding Director of Headstrong said. “Ireland in 2011 is a much tougher, trickier place to grow up in particularly for a young person with a mental health vulnerability .This is a hopeful step in the right direction. And it’s different because it involves grassroots community supports combined with professionals informed by the end users – young people themselves. This is the start of our journey and ensures that by 2016 every young person will have somewhere to turn to and someone to talk to.”

November saw a flurry of activity in the newly selected Jigsaw sites with several research teams dispatched by Headstrong for the needs and resource analysis process. Each site did trojan work in pulling together and gathering their local resources to facilitate this process, particularly in the tight timeframe that was given to them.

This first stage in the Jigsaw planning process was a great success in terms of participation from local agencies, the community, voluntary and statutory sector. Rich data has been collected in each site. We are in the process of presenting the results of this research back to the communities and the next step will be formulating goals for each local Jigsaw project.