One third of calls to Connect counselling have been received outside of service hours this year, with overall calls to reach almost 8,000.
Connect received 7,826 calls in the year between December 1, 2018 and 2019. Of these calls 5,326 were answered and 2,500 received out of hours. This was a 4% increase on 5,123 calls answered in 2018.
74% of callers were female and 26% male. Almost half of callers were aged between 31-50 years (48%) with 29% over 50.
The annual figures highlight an ongoing demand for the Connect service and need for longer opening hours. Connect is open 20 hours a week (6-10pm, Wednesday to Sunday). Those who call out of hours are directed on the answering service and to call again within opening hours.
Service Director Marie Percival said the high volume of calls received out of hours is a challenge, but Connect is successfully meeting a specific demand of abuse survivors.
“Connect is a necessary and niche service that meets the needs of people who choose anonymous telephone based counselling as a first step towards face-to-face therapy, or as a preferred longer term approach.
However, we do have a challenge with demand for additional opening hours and we would encourage more male callers to the service,” she said.
In anticipation of increased demand over the Christmas period, Connect is extending its hours to open every evening from Wednesday, December 18th until Sunday, January 5th. Ms. Percival said that Christmas can be a particularly sensitive time when difficulties can resurface.
Connect is a free, confidential and professional telephone-based counselling and support service for adults who were abused in childhood. It was established in 2006 following demands from groups representing survivors of institutional abuse that an independent and professional out of hours telephone-based service be established. The service is HSE funded.
People can call Connect for free at 1800 477 477. From Northern Ireland and the UK people can call 00 800 477 477 77.
Callers will get to speak with a trained counsellor who can listen and provide professional counselling and support.