Almost 5,200 people on waiting lists for National Counselling Service

At least 169 people have been waiting at least a year to be seen by the HSE's National Counselling Service.

At least 169 people have been waiting at least a year to be seen by the HSE's National Counselling Service.

They are all based in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

These HSE figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal the waiting lists for the National Counselling Service across the country.

The stats involve counselling in primary care, along with those who have suffered a bereavement or need help due to suicidal thoughts or self-harm.

There are nearly 5,200 on these waiting lists across the country.

At least 721 people have been waiting at least seven months and 169 have been waiting over a year.

All of those on the list for more than a year are in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

There are 695 people in Cork and Kerry are on the waiting list with 145 waiting over six months.

"It is a farce to have to wait for more than a few months even because the crisis may have passed, the person may have gone elsewhere, perhaps gone privately for treatment when they can ill afford it or don't need to go privately, they may well have harmed themselves," said Patricia Casey, a consultant psychiatrist.

"So it means all of the campains about coming forward and getting help are for naught."

Ms Casey said the problem will get worse in the coming months.

"It is very concerning that people who may be in crisis either because of suicidal thoughts or personal problems or mental health problems or financial problems have to wait so long to see a psychologist.

"Of course, it is likely that that will get worse when the lockdown has ended because there will be mental health repercussions from Covid."

Brendan Kelly, a professor of psychiatry in Trinity College, says the numbers on waiting lists is very worrying.

"This is a very big concern especially at the present time when levels of stress and anxiety are so high owing to Covid-19," said Prof. Kelly.

"The counselling services provided by the State are a vital part of mental healthcare for this country."

This story was updated to correct a figure at 10.20am

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