- 02 Nov 20
Jen Trzeciak is an occupational therapist with Jigsaw. In the past year, she has moved to Jigsaw’s online services as the E-Mental Health Clinical Manager. We spoke to Jen about the services offered by Jigsaw and the importance of youth mental health services in Ireland.
Jigsaw has always offered direct services and short-term intervention, but now, the organisation has launched online services to young people.
“Over the past couple years, we’ve realised that a lot of young people are online – and that’s where they’re looking for support,” notes Jen Trzeciak, an occupational therapist with Jigsaw. “Young people can ring up and request an appointment, but there’s obviously a limited amount of space on offer. Sometimes people will have to wait, whereas with the online services, there’s no referral criteria, and people can speak to somebody straight away. There’s a kind of instant access.
“We’re in 12 locations – Cork, Donegal, Dublin South West, Dublin 15, Dublin City, Galway, Kerry, Laois/Offaly, Limerick, North Fingal, Meath, Roscommon – but Jigsaw Online is accessible across the whole of Ireland.”
Jigsaw deals primarily with young people ages 12-25, and Trzeciak says they’ve seen a huge influx of young people using the online service since the start of COVID-19, despite its relative newness.
“What we’re finding is a lot more of the older cohort from ages 18-25 – are coming online, because coming out to make an appointment might have been more of a challenge.”
In addition to dealing directly with young people, Jigsaw offers services to educators and adults who work with youth.
“From our perspective, we need the community around a young person to support their mental health,” Trzeciak notes. “And it’s not just a services issue, it is about everybody being aware. One of the things we work on with parents is to encourage them to listen, and to be open to hearing about mental health.
“What often happens is that they want to reassure young people by saying ‘don’t worry about it, it’s not a big deal’. For a lot of young people, they just want to be listened to, and for someone to acknowledge that they are experiencing stress.”
So what’s her advice?
“Don’t be afraid to ask a question about what’s going on, or to check in. We’re also trying to facilitate schools becoming more aware of how they support mental health. It’s great having World Mental Health Day, but actually, discussion of mental needs to be spread across the year.”
This all might seem relatively straightforward, but according to Trzeciak, it’s often the simplest things that fall by the wayside in schools.
“It can sometimes be practical things, like knowing the hours that your guidance counsellor’s office is open, or where you can go if you need a little bit of time out.”
Part of the way Jigsaw encourages open conversation about mental health is by ensuring that their services are as inclusive and accessible as possible.
“Some of our premises are a little bit older, and if we can’t see people – if they have a disability, for example – then we find an alternative place to be able to see them,” says Trzeciak. “We don’t want people to feel that there’s any barrier to accessing services.”
Since the pandemic started, Jigsaw have also been offering different types of appointments: phone- and video-based tele-health support is now available for people in more rural areas.
“We cover some very wide catchment areas,” says Trzeciak, “so inclusivity is something we’re always working on.”
Jigsaw uses community engagement workers to accomplish this mission of inclusivity, but perhaps their most important effort – aside from the online service – is their youth advisory panel. “Their role is really to highlight the gaps, and hold us to account for how we’re delivering services,” says Trzeciak, “to make sure that what we’re offering is acceptable and accessible for young people across a range of different backgrounds.”
The key is to know you’re not alone.
“I know that it can feel difficult to take that first step, but actually Jigsaw online is a really good option,” says Trzeciak. "You can be completely anonymous, log in and just have the conversation about what your needs are and what might be helpful. If you want more face-to-face support, we can look at how we can enable that to happen. But don’t keep it to yourself.”
• Jigsaw has live online chats, group chats, a free phone number (1-800-JIGSAW), and an email ([email protected]) where you can speak to someone directly.