22% increase in calls to Telephone Counselling Service

Monday June 11th, 2012

A Third of Counselling Calls from Abuse Survivors

Telephone counselling service Connect recorded a 22% increase in calls during 2011 receiving a total of 10,384 calls.

The growth in demand for Connect’s service continues the pattern from previous years when there was an average of 30% year on year growth during its first four full years of service (2007-2010). There have been a total of 42,183 calls made to Connect since it began in 2006.

In November and December of 2011 calls from survivors of institutional abuse peaked at 32% and 34% respectively, which is linked to publication of church abuse reports during these months.

80%, of calls during 2011 were from women with 50% of callers aged 31-40. Of callers who reported diagnosed mental illness 70% said they suffered from depression. Others identified themselves as having self-harmed, suicidal thoughts, eating disorder(s) and relationship difficulties.

Connect was established in 2006 following demands from groups representing survivors of institutional abuse that an independent and professional out of hours telephone based counselling and support service be established.

Connect is a free service and is funded by the HSE. It is also available to abuse survivors now living in the UK.

Connect Manager Theresa Merrigan welcomed the continued growth of the service in the Republic of Ireland and called on more men to make use of the service.

Connect to Target Irish Community in the UK

She also highlighted the need to make more people aware of the service in Northern Ireland and Britain.

“The annual average number of callers to Connect from the UK represents only 2% of calls to the service. Approximately 80% of these calls are from family members of former residents of institutions.”

“Research* suggests that the majority of survivors live in Ireland (58%) with a sizeable minority (37%) in the UK and the balance in other parts of the world. We therefore need to grow the number of callers from the UK to support Irish abuse survivors who live there. This is a priority for Connect in 2012.”

Up to 90% of calls to Connect are repeat calls of people who decide to avail of on-going support for a period of time while they await face to face counselling, or deal with a particular issue in their life.

At times of abuse report publications, or television programmes which highlight abuse issues, there is up to a 100% increase in first time callers many of whom give first time disclosures of abuse.

At these times Connect extends its hours of service to provide additional support to people distressed or affected by media attention. These callers very often become regular callers for a period while they either await face-to-face counselling or other supports.

Connect is available Wednesday to Sunday from 6-10pm at 1800 477 477 and from the UK at 0800 477 477 77.

In 2010 Connect became the first Irish service to receive the UK based Helplines Association Quality Standard mark.

Further Information

Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.


* Developing a Profile of Survivors of Abuse in Irish Religious Institutions. A Report by Mary Higgins for St. Stephen’s Green Trust, October 2010.

This research also found that:

  • 80% are aged over 49 and just over half of these are over 60 and 7% over 70
  • The level of education in care facilities was very poor and the majority (over 70%) spent their lifetime in manual, casual and other low paid work
  • The lack of preparation for life outside the institution left survivors vulnerable to exploitation and for some this was a contributory factor to lives of homelessness, substance abuse and anti-social behaviour
  • Long-term emotional and mental health problems were experienced by four out of five
  • For men these difficulties tend to manifest in risk taking sex, delinquency, crime, violence, alcohol abuse while for women they manifest in anxieties, depression, eating disorders, mood disorders and suicidal tendencies.
  • In spite of these difficulties, almost 60% were in stable relationships, the majority for extended periods
  • Just 7% were separated and 27% were single
  • More women were single than men (35% compared to 29%.)

NOTE: Due to the difficulty in identifying and accessing the subject population in this study, these figures are indicative rather than proportionately sample based.