Limerick based not-for-profit organisation uses technology to address mental health issues

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Email:

norma.prendiville@limerickleader.ie

Limerick based not-for-profit organisation uses technology to address mental health issues

Brian O’Sullivan, ceo of Day by Day Support Services

IN a world where social media and connectivity are now the stuff of everyday, a Limerick based not-for-profit organisation is using technology to address the big issue of mental health.

Day by Day Support Services provides online support and help to an international community of  over 60,000 people in distress each week and, says the newly appointed chief executive officer, Brian O’Sullivan, it is all done on a voluntary basis.

Even his job of CEO, which he took up in June, is on a voluntary basis.

The key element of Day by Day Support Services is that modern technology allows  instant and accessible support to people who are dealing with depression or anxiety, who are suicidal or have suicidal thoughts or dealing with issues such as abuse,  Brian explains. 

Crucially, Brian stresses, the online service is administered, run and moderated by people, like himself, with a background in health and social care services and trained in providing the service. Above all, he says, it is a very safe environment where people can open up and find support. 

But he is appealing for more volunteers willing to commit to a minimum four hours a week.

“There are three main services we offer,” Brian continues. The first is its peer-to-peer service which uses Facebook. “We have over 214,000 members following us on Facebook and our average reach per week is 60,000. People are supporting each other but they are doing it in a safe, moderated environment. Administrators supervise the content, making sure it is appropriate and that there is nothing triggering things for other members,” Brian explains.

It is not, he adds, a therapeutic or counselling service but it provides instant and accessible support for people. “It is also about recovery,” Brian says.  And anybody who crosses the line and posts inappropriate comments is removed.

A second service is called a non-crisis e-mail service. This is an alternative for people who might feel uncomfortable talking on social media. But Brian makes clear, it is for people who are not in crisis and the response time is between 48 and 72 hours.

“You email us and have a one-to-one communication with one of our team,” he explains. An example of how this is used could be someone trying to find out what to do with a friend or family member with mental health problems. “We get 30 to 40 emails a week,” Brian says. And these could come from as far away as India, Pakistan, Indonesia or Canada. 

Day by Day has also been providing a crisis service, at least up until a few months ago. This service uses a specific software programme to provide a private, secure,  one-to-one conversation for people who are suicidal or considering self-harm. But, Brian says: “If  we have continuing  concerns about a person’s safety we will escalate.”

And in the four years or so that he has been involved with the organisation, Brian knows that lives have been saved as a result.

Now, however, the crisis service has had to be suspended because of a lack of volunteers and Brian, in his new capacity as CEO, is appealing to people with specific training to come forward. They are, he explains, looking for people from a health or social care background or people with relevant experience and training.

Day by Day operates its own very thorough training system and also provides its own support network for volunteers. “Everyone who works with us is supervised and their work is moderated,” Brian points out, adding that there is a very strong board of management, again all volunteers. His hope is that they can double the number of volunteers but he adds that there is a fairly rigorous application and vetting process.

“We are an independent organisation, volunteer funded and volunteer led. I believe we are hugely effective in what we do.”

If you would like to be considered as a volunteer you can email Brian at brian@olagola.org or if you think you might benefit from the service, go to www.olagola.org or www.facebook.com/olagola and follow the instructions.