The Impact of Mental Health Charities on Irish Society

Our second report, in a series of eight reports on the impact of charities on Irish society, focuses on the vision, mission and impact of mental health charities registered in Ireland and outlines how these charities are working towards achieving their missions. It identifies the key future challenges facing mental health charities and how these charities are innovating in the face of a dynamic environment.


VISION AND MISSION – Commonalities and Differences

All of the charities in the research sample share a common aim of working to promote and support mental health and wellbeing. The charities can be differentiated by the type of services they offer, how they deliver their services, the needs of the people they work with, whether they work on a one-to-one basis, on a group basis, with communities, or work directly with the public or on behalf of other mental health organisations.



  • Aware: Beat the Blues programme delivered in 477 schools nationwide reaching 27,790 students. 11,137 calls answered on the support line. 12,617 visits to support groups nationwide.
  • GROW: National network of 130 weekly support groups.
  • Jigsaw: 4,070 young people given direct and indirect support by Jigsaw services. 10,176 people attended Supporting Young Peoples mental health workshops.
  • Mental Health Reform: Secured additional funding in Budget 2016 for the development of mental health services, got agreement on a Standard Operating Procedure for child and adolescent mental health services, secured commitment to a clinical care programme on dual diagnosis (mental health/addiction), roll-out of Self-Harm Liaison Nurses in hospitals, a Comprehensive Employment Strategy that addresses people with mental health disabilities, deletion of the term ‘unwilling’ from the Mental Health Act, 2001, and a commitment of €2 million to improve mental health services for homeless people. Made 25 submissions to government.
  • Mental Health Ireland: 442 training and information sessions were delivered by Area Development Officers to 14,827 individuals nationally. Over 300 events organised by mental health associations for Mental Health Week.
  • Pieta House: Since 2006 Pieta House has helped more than 22,000 people in suicidal crisis or who engage in self-harm, with 5,500 clients in 2015.
  • Attracted 4,000 Irish visits per week and 714 comments were submitted in 2014.
  • Samaritans Ireland: Contacted every 6 seconds. 20 Samaritan branches across Ireland with 2,400 active volunteers. 1,145 face-to-face contacts at festivals as part of the Samaritans outreach service.



According to Aware there are an estimated 45,000 people in Ireland who experience bipolar disorder, which is a life-long condition. The World Health Organisation reported that Ireland has the seventh highest rate of suicide in people in the EU in the 15-24 age group. Other research studies indicate that mental health difficulties peak during teenage and early adult years but young people who experience mental health difficulties are unlikely to look for help.

These statistics and the uptake in the various supports offered by the charities included in this research point to an obvious need for the range of services provided by these mental health charities. To meet the mental health needs of people resident in Ireland, the charities included in our research sample provide a diverse range of services from immediate response mechanisms (e.g. Samaritans); counselling, education and support in the area of suicide prevention (e.g. Pieta House); face-to-face (e.g. Jigsaw) and online (e.g. youth mental health counselling and education; support groups (e.g. GROW, Aware); general mental health awareness (e.g. Mental Health Ireland) to advocacy and awareness (e.g. Mental Health Reform).



Mental health charities operating in Ireland face four key challenges

  1. Uncertainty of funding: Despite the fact that six of the eight charities (75%) in our research sample reported an increase in their total income when compared to 2014, building a stable financial base remains a key challenge for charities. The uncertainty of the economic climate impacts on the ability of individual donors to contribute to charities but also the likelihood of corporate donors being able to continue to support charities. Charities in receipt of government and HSE funding are also reliant on their continued financial support. This is against the backdrop of a change in the way the State engages with the third sector, i.e. the State is moving to a much more business like model of service commissioning, with defined quality standards and outputs required in return for contracted prices.
  2. Fluctuating levels of public trust in charities: Another key challenge for charities is securing and maintaining public trust and managing their reputations when scandals do arise in the charity sector. The appointment of a Charity Regulator, adopting the Governance Code for Community, Voluntary and Charitable organisations, adhering to the Statement of Guiding Principles of Fundraising, the voluntary adoption of Charities SORP by many charities to enhance the transparency of their financial reports are all examples of measures that charities have taken to reassure their donors and the public that they are trustworthy.
  3. Availability of volunteers to match the needs of the charity: Charities are highly dependent on volunteers. The ability to attract and retain volunteers is a further risk to charities and their capacity to deliver their stated missions.
  4. Government Policy and Commitment: Charities will need to continue to ensure that mental health remains on the political agenda, in the programme for government and ensure that the services delivered by charities which are dependent on government funding are provided for in the budgetary process.



  1. Research in to Service Offerings: Research indicates that mental health difficulties peak during teenage and early adult years but young people who experience mental health difficulties are unlikely to look for help. For these reasons, Jigsaw engage in a research programme to understand Irish young people’s mental health needs to make sure that the services offered are of a high quality and work for young people, and to improve and be better at how they support young people with their mental health. To support their commitment to research Jigsaw introduced a research bursary scheme in 2014 to support research being undertaken by post-graduate students in the area of health and social sciences. is also engaged in conducting research to ensure that its offerings meet the needs of its target audience e.g. the organisation conducted a “What’s wrecking your head” online youth mental health survey, targeted at 13-19 year olds. The survey had 2,500 respondents in three days.
  2. Expanding reach: Because young adults are deemed most at risk from mental illness, GROW in Ireland is developing resources specifically to help their particular needs. GROW’s ultimate goal is to provide a large network of easily accessible young adult support groups countrywide. GROW define a young adult as anyone between the ages of 18 and 30 and currently have three GROW young adult groups in Ireland – 1 in Cork and 2 in Dublin.In 2015 the HSE committed to supporting Jigsaw to develop three new Jigsaw projects in Dublin City, Cork and Limerick. Jigsaw aim to have a national network where every young person in Ireland can reasonably access mental health supports in a local Jigsaw service.Pieta House is also expanding its reach with one of their goals is aiming to have a centre within 100km of every person in Ireland.The Samaritans are increasing their outreach activities bringing Samaritan services in to towns, villages and communities particularly via festival work during the summer months. The Festival branch offers one-to-one emotional support at festivals, concerts and events throughout Ireland. The Samaritans “Feet on the street” offers one-to-one emotional support on the street late at night and in the early hours in urban centres near pubs and nightclubs.
  3. New campaigns: To reach as many people as possible new campaigns are being developed, e.g. Mental Health Ireland launched their ‘Smiley Pancake Campaign’ and their first national Solstice Wellbeing event in the Burren.John Sutton is Managing Director at Persuasion Republic. Persuasion Republic offers a full range of research and training, design, fundraising and advocacy and awareness services. For further information contact or call John on 01 453 68 36