More than one suicidal person travels to Richmond every day

More than one person a day thought about dying by suicide in 2022 and this year and contacted the Richmond Foundation by phone or chat.

Those seeking the NGO’s support were mainly dealing with depression, anxiety or relationship problems.

Relationship problems — both between partners and between children and their parents — have been on the rise since the COVID pandemic took the world by storm, with Richmond having struggled to keep up with calls for help ever since.

In just three years, Richmond had to double the number of its therapists and quintuple its therapy space. However, that’s not enough.

“For the first time ever, we now have a two to three month waiting list for one of our core services through which companies can provide psychological sessions to their employees in the strictest confidence,” he told the Times of Malta interim chief executive officer Daniela Calleja Bitar. .

Every week Richmond revises its waiting list because at least 10 people need urgent care.

The challenges faced by Richmond are prevalent throughout the industry. Earlier this month, the Speaker of the Chamber of Psychologists, Gail Debono, said Malta was facing a “crisis in mental health services” with heightened awareness leading to more people seeking government services, where lists of waiting keeps getting longer and the psychologists are exhausted.

“This is the pandemic after the pandemic. But no one talks about it or is as alarmed as they were about the Covid pandemic,” Calleja Bitar said.

Her colleague Lynn Sammut recalls that when she took over the leadership of Richmond’s counseling programs in 2020, she was faced with a “constant flow of service” offered to 75 companies through 15 therapists.

“Covid struck and everything was turned upside down. We now have 34 therapists and are continually hiring more professionals. We’ve gone from two to ten therapy rooms… and it’s still not enough.

“In 2020 we had 300 stable sessions per month. Now we are at 750 with a request for 900 sessions per month”.

In addition to an increasing number of people needing support, those coping with mental health issues increasingly need more time with their therapists as they grapple with more complex issues.

“While pre-COVID people would have needed, on average, six sessions with a therapist, now most require extensions, with Richmond’s capacity to take on new clients becoming very limited. Faced with this new reality, we are continually looking for new therapists as feedback shows that the service promotes a healthy work environment for employers and employees.

“Fortunately, we continue to see companies that want to support employees who otherwise could not afford it, negatively impacting their lives and the lives of their relatives.”

Richmond separately provides free or subsidized support to people in the public who cannot afford therapy. The NGO went from very few people using this service in 2020 to a therapy worth 25,000 euros

in 2022, which he funded through fundraisers.

Richmond also offers a service through which people can simply dial a number or chat online with a professional.

In 2022, a total of 391 people with suicidal ideation contacted Richmond via its 24/7 helpline 1770 or chat facility OLLI, both partially funded by the government.

This year, while the foundation can no longer provide 24/7 service, projections show similar figures.

Contacts may remain anonymous but, according to information provided by callers, Richmond has seen an increase in men in their late teens or early 20s — or their concerned relatives — who are contemplating suicide.

Casey Scicluna, Richmond’s community programs manager, noted that while no correlation can yet be drawn between current mental health issues and COVID, people have been spending significantly more time with just one or two people during the pandemic. and they were cut off. by colleagues and friends who met on a daily basis.

This could have strained the relationship between these two people, and once preventative measures were lifted, people had to relearn how to socialize and adapt from scratch. It has been especially challenging for children and young adults as students have gone from learning social and negotiation skills in school to having their interactions limited by a screen.

Calleja Bitar and her colleagues believe that, in addition to encouraging more people to enroll in psychology, psychotherapy, social work and other related courses and making the sector more attractive through financial incentives or tax incentives, early intervention mental health services should be a priority.

“Richmond offers a service that enables school staff and older students to recognize the symptoms of mental health problems among their peers. The younger the children, especially the boys, are and understand that it is right to talk, the better.

“We tell children to take care of their health, to eat vegetables and stay physically healthy… in the same way we should teach them how to take care of their mental health,” Calleja Bitar said.

“We all know the symptoms of a cold. If it continues for more than three days, we know that we have to see the doctor, otherwise we risk it getting worse.

“If you feel unwell for more than two weeks, contact us. If you have low mood, feel like isolating yourself, low motivation to shower or changes in appetite, see your GP. They will know what to do.”

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