The Self Harm Intervention Programme (SHIP) has a caseload of about 20 people at any one time for 12 sessions, and has been operating since it began on a pilot basis in 2004.
Counsellor Athol Henwick said: “It used to be that anybody could refer themselves but we’ve changed it now to professional referral because we have had huge volumes of people being referred that we can’t deal with as quickly as we would like, so we have had to have them referred by a prof who can have a care plan prepared for them.”
He said at the beginning of this month there was no one awaiting treatment, but typically between 10 and 15 can be awaiting access to the service.
In recent years a trend had been people suffering from financial burdens, “where that had never really been an issue before.”
Men account for two in five clients and Mr Henwick said: “The thing that has really changed for us in the last two to three years is the volume of referrals. We could have 20 new people referred a month.
“The morbidity has become a lot more serious. People’s intention in trying to self-harm has been a lot more serious. Whereas in the past people were thinking about it a lot... the last two or three years it’s been a lot more clear cut and people are sorry that it didn’t work.”
He said there was a need for similar programmes to run throughout the country and for the service to be extended in Wexford.
Mr Henwick was one of a number of speakers at the HSE National Counselling Service conference in Dublin Castle yesterday.
Counsellor with HSE West, Sonya Murray, spoke on women engaging in sexually harmful behaviour. She said in recent years she encountered two clients in Co Mayo alone.
She said the issue was often “hidden” and services needed to be aware of the possibility of female abusers, who have often been abused themselves.
Audrey Delaney, a victim of abuse at the hands of her father Bernard, told the conference that “survivors are expected to go against whole families without emotional support”.
She said more services needed to be made available to the families of abusers and abuse victims to limit the isolation victims feel, especially when the abuser is a relative.
She said of her father: “He was protected every which way by our backward culture.”