Jigsaw celebrate one year of supporting Limerick’s youth


Knowledge is power.

Jigsaw Limerick, a charitable organisation that provides free vital mental health support to young people aged from 12-25 across Limerick City and County, opened its doors one year ago. It is only fitting and right that we take some time to shed some light on the amazing services Jigsaw provides as well as the work of Jigsaw’s dedicated and spirited staff who offer this early intervention/prevention service.

On entering Jigsaw, you are greeted with a bright and colourful reception area and the just as bright and colourful administrator, Eileen. The staff at Jigsaw certainly go above and beyond to make you feel at your ease, safe and secure.

In situations like this, you may feel like you will be greeted by a serious looking, shirt and tie professional, with their button fastened all the way up to their chin cutting off circulation, but this is not the case. Young Clinical Psychologist, Dr Cian Aherne wears a crisp white polo shirt and jeans. He is of course very professional but at the same time a very friendly, approachable and warm individual. You do not feel like you are going to be scrutinised, pricked and prodded.

It is clear from the outset that the young clinician is passionate about education and early intervention. These words were repeated numerous times throughout our meeting. Dr Aherne spoke of how there is a massive emphasis on CAMHS and the long waiting lists where children are waiting to see a mental health professional. However, what Jigsaw want to concentrate on is early intervention and education so that maybe, in the future, we can decrease the number of young people waiting on these horrendously long lists.

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I went into Jigsaw looking to ask some hard-hitting questions on the current mental health situation in Ireland and the aforementioned lists. I wanted to understand how we got to this point and I also wanted to investigate the services available to young people in Limerick who may be struggling.

It turns out there are many services on offer in Limerick but, unfortunately, we are not always aware of them. Organisations like Jigsaw Limerick are not hiding away behind the bushes trying to avoid work; they are a hive of activity, devoted professionals working towards the education of parents, teachers and children.

Dr Aherne explained the work of the staff within Jigsaw Limerick:

“A high percentage of young people attending Jigsaw Limerick are experiencing significant anxiety and anger. We spend huge amounts of time validating these experiences because they are happening for very good reason. These young people have had a lot of horrible stuff happen to them and their emotions are responding accordingly. We aren’t trying to get rid of these feelings but instead look to validate them, help the young person make sense of them and support them to act upon them in ways that they find helpful.”

From speaking to Dr Cian Aherne and meeting the young and vibrant staff members like Jigsaw’s administrator Eileen with the infectious smile, I learnt that Jigsaw Limerick aspires to intervene, to educate, to empower not only young people but their parents, their teachers and the community as a whole. Dr Aherne added ‘It is about supporting each other. Parents supporting their children. Jigsaw wants to empower people to be able to do this. ‘

Jigsaw’s real focus is on early intervention. Their main aim is to get to the difficulties before they get more complex and severe. They specifically provide services to those aged from 12-25 as this is the important adolescent transitional period.

“If people could learn the basic skills of listening to and being with others when they’re experiencing emotional distress, the issues with regards to lack of services wouldn’t be there,” Dr Aherne continued.

Jigsaw has strong links with CAMHS, Pieta House, GPs as well as Limerick Social Services Counselling Service, the Limerick Youth Service, to name but a few. The Limerick Social Services Counselling Service and the Limerick Youth Service also offer psychotherapeutic services to young people aged from 14-25. Dr Aherne commented that there are vast quantities of professionals trying to help young people in the area of Limerick. These services are at our fingertips and we need to recognise and understand the services available to us so we know where to go should we need help.

Jigsaw Limerick does not function by themselves. They meet with secondary schools around Limerick, liaising with teachers, parents and guidance counsellors on what we need to do to elevate the young people of Limerick. They believe in working together to promote mental health education.

This is the exact message I took from my visit to Jigsaw Limerick. We are all in this together and we all, as a community, need to come together and avail of services such as Jigsaw, to upskill and gain knowledge. We will all struggle with our mental health at some point in our lives and so we need to stay informed and educated.

Aherne commented, “Everyone experiences mental health challenges across a day, a week, a year and it is something we all need to be aware of and support each other in.”

Questioning Dr Aherne on the seemingly ever-increasing cases of mental health issues in Ireland, he replied “It seems like more and more people with mental health issues but Jigsaw sees that as a positive in that people are talking about it and seeking services. Seeking help is a positive.”

The Limerick Post also spoke to Dr Aherne about the negative impact social media has on the youth of today. Asking Dr Aherne on this matter, he said that in all honesty, the young people that he sees at Jigsaw do not complain about the internet and social media. In fact, they say that it is a tool that helps them to connect with people. They do not see it as a negative in their lives.

Jigsaw will be implementing an e-Jigsaw in the future which will be an online help service for young people. Since young people are nearly always connected to the internet either by their phones, laptops and other devices it seems only natural that Jigsaw would set up on online service.

Jigsaw also run training and workshops for parents and children. Jigsaw Limerick opened their doors to the public a year ago on the 26 June 2017. I have to say that although I am well accustomed to shopping in Arthurs Quay shopping centre, I did have to use google maps to locate Jigsaw. For those who will be visiting the centre, the entrance to Jigsaw is just opposite Chez Le Fab café.

We need to work together, we need to embrace the education, tools and skills that are being offered. These skills will help you and others around you, we need to avail of the services that are on offer in the community such as organisations as Jigsaw which is a free service. Together as a community, we can support the youth of today to become mentally stronger and more resilient. We need to remember that asking for help is most definitely not a weakness. As Dr Aherne said, “Seeking help is a positive.”

It is essential that we all open our ears, eyes, minds and hearts and work together as a community to support each other and our young people.

For more information on Jigsaw please access the Jigsaw website.

Click here to listen to part one of Dr Cian Aherne’s interview with the Limerick Post.

Click here for more health news.