Our mental health is of the utmost importance when it comes to our everyday lives. It affects how we interact, how we work and how we feel. 

In our latest Business Leaders episode, we explore expert insights into mental health accessibility and online innovation with Lochlann Scott, Founder and CEO of Helplink Mental Health. 

Helplink is a support service organisation, specialising in counselling, information provision and education. With Lochlann’s expertise, he talks us through a unique approach to support in the digital age.

Check out our full Business Leaders interview below, or read on for the highlights.

The online world offers so many opportunities for those in need to find help and resources. As Lochlann explains the thinking behind Helplink, and the organisation’s journey, he continuously emphasises how accessibility is key for those in distress.

Mental Health with Lochlann Scott

“From the very beginning, it has always been about creating accessibility for people when it comes to their mental health. We started providing services on September 10th 2012, which was World Suicide Prevention Day, starting off with four people. We are now at 32 and growing.”

But what exactly is offered by Helplink? “We provide face-to-face services across County Galway and up into Mayo and Roscommon. We also provide a national service and an international online service for Irish people living abroad who are struggling with their mental health.

“We support them from home with culturally sensitive counselling.”

helplink mental health logo
Helplink Mental Health’s mission is to provide accessible, free or low cost mental health services locally, nationally and internationally. Image credit: Helplink.ie

How did the Helplink Support Services concept, and Lochlann’s path to founding the organisation, evolve?

Lochlann’s career has seen him do everything from waiting tables, to working in security, to opening his own wine bar. But after travelling from the Netherlands to Waterford and everywhere in between, he knew there was something missing that he was yet to discover.

“I went to college and found psychology. Within one lecture I was thinking ‘this is what I was supposed to be doing all along, helping people with what’s going on in their heads’. So I studied that for many years and worked in social care.”

With his knowledge and experience, Lochlann found that with the right platform and the right approach, communicating with people could be easier online.

As someone who has dyslexia, Lochlann found that the online format made sense for him. It also underlined the importance of accessibility.

“Within local health services I started seeing that there were a lot of gaps there for people who wanted to access services outside nine to five working hours. I went and found my own counselling but couldn’t find a counsellor after 5pm, so I had to do my counselling on my lunch break.”

With this restrictive counselling schedule, Lochlann decided to make a change.

“From making this change, we’re still the only seven day per week and out-of-hours counselling service in Galway. When we open in Mayo and Roscommon, we’ll be the only out-of-hours service in those counties as well.”

helplink lochlann scott
Lochlann Scott, the Founder of Helplink, believes that mental health support should be available 24/7 online and offline. Image credit: Gambling Awareness Trust

Using Online Tools for Accessible Mental Health Services 

Lochlann explained how a blend of online and offline access can be used by a client to suit their individual needs. But what does this involve?

“We utilise traditional tools like offices, but we also use online resources. For example, some of our clients might come in for one session then do the online work themselves. Or they are business people who have their counselling sessions online when they are abroad in a hotel somewhere.”

Without online intervention, this means limited resources and in turn, unwillingness to seek help.

“It’s about creating something that’s available to people when they want it and when they need it, at times of the day when they can actually engage with it properly. Last year we started doing workshops for schools. The thinking behind that was that we need to educate and provide information to people at a young age.”

Helplink’s hope for the future? “We want to eventually bring those types of workshops to students all over the country so they can have access too.”

To hear more about Lochlann’s work with mental health across Ireland, check out our full Business Leaders interview. Or for more information about Helplink, visit the official website.

Crisis Support Services: A Lifeline in Times of Need

When faced with a personal crisis, whether it’s a mental health emergency, a traumatic event, or a sudden life-altering event, knowing where to turn for help can feel overwhelming. Crisis support services provide a vital lifeline, offering immediate assistance, emotional support, and critical resources to navigate through those darkest moments. Let’s delve into the key elements of this crucial network:

1. Emergency Response Assistance:

  • Hotlines and Text Lines: Crisis hotlines, like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (988) and Crisis Text Line (Text HOME to 741741), offer immediate emotional support and connection to trained crisis counselors available 24/7.
  • Mobile Crisis Teams: These teams, often comprised of mental health professionals and law enforcement officers, respond directly to crisis situations in homes and communities, providing de-escalation, intervention, and connection to appropriate resources.
  • Hospitalization & Emergency Rooms: When immediate medical attention is crucial, emergency rooms and psychiatric facilities are equipped to stabilize individuals in crisis and provide further treatment options.

2. Support Hotlines and Warmlines:

  • Beyond emergencies: Going beyond immediate crisis intervention, support hotlines and warmlines offer a space for conversation, emotional support, and resource navigation for those struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, or difficult life situations.
  • Trained listeners: These lines are staffed by trained volunteers or professionals who provide non-judgmental listening, emotional validation, and information on additional resources that can address the caller’s specific needs.
  • Warmlines: Filling the gap between crisis and therapy, warmlines cater to individuals not facing an immediate emergency but seeking support for emotional distress, difficult experiences, or general feelings of isolation.

3. Partnerships with First Responders:

  • Collaboration for comprehensive care: Crisis support services collaborate closely with first responders like police, paramedics, and firefighters. This ensures trained crisis personnel are quickly involved in situations involving mental health emergencies, preventing potential escalation and providing individuals with appropriate support.
  • Training and education: Ongoing training programs for first responders equip them with essential skills to identify potential mental health crises, respond effectively, and connect individuals with appropriate resources.
  • **Post-crisis ** Crisis support services can work with first responders to ensure follow-up care and resources are readily available for individuals after a crisis event, promoting long-term well-being.

Remember, accessing crisis support services is a sign of strength, not weakness. These resources are readily available, confidential, and can provide the crucial lifeline needed to navigate challenging times and build a path towards healing and hope.

Accessing Care and Affordability: Unlocking the Door to Mental Health Services

While the vital role of crisis support services in mental health emergencies is undeniable, securing ongoing care and managing costs can feel like navigating a labyrinth. However, with knowledge and available resources, individuals can find and afford the mental health care they deserve. Here are key considerations for unlocking the door to accessible and affordable treatment:

1. Demystifying Insurance and Parity Laws:

  • Understanding your health insurance: Familiarize yourself with your insurance plan’s mental health coverage details, including in-network providers, co-pays, deductibles, and annual coverages. Resources like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offer helpful insurance guides.
  • Parity laws: The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) mandates most insurance plans to cover mental health services at the same level as physical health services. If you encounter coverage discrepancies, advocate for your rights and consider filing appeals.

2. Navigating Medicaid/Medicare:

  • Medicaid: This government program provides health insurance to individuals and families with low income. Many states offer comprehensive mental health coverage through Medicaid plans. Explore eligibility requirements and contact your state Medicaid agency for specific details.
  • Medicare: While Medicare’s coverage for mental health services is narrower than Medicaid, it does offer coverage for individual therapy, group therapy, and certain forms of medication. Be informed about covered services and explore supplemental Medicare plans for potential additional coverage.

3. Low-Cost Counselors and Assistance Programs:

  • Sliding scale fees: Many therapists and mental health professionals offer sliding scale fees based on income, making therapy more affordable for those facing financial limitations. Resources like Open Path Psychotherapy Collective and Psychology Today’s Therapist Directory can help you locate providers offering sliding scale options.
  • Free or low-cost clinics: Community mental health centers, university counseling clinics, and faith-based organizations often offer free or low-cost counseling and other mental health services. Utilize resources like SAMHSA’s National Helpline (1-800-662-HELP) or MentalHealth.gov to locate these services in your area.
  • Telehealth options: Online therapy platforms and teletherapy providers offer convenient and often more affordable access to mental health services. Research various platforms and compare costs to find one that fits your budget and needs.

4. Breaking Down Additional Barriers:

  • Transportation assistance: Some organizations offer transportation assistance programs to help individuals overcome transportation hurdles in accessing mental health care. Consider exploring options like volunteer driver programs or public transportation discounts.
  • Childcare resources: Lack of childcare can be a significant barrier for parents seeking mental health care. Research childcare assistance programs or consider in-home therapy options through telehealth platforms.
  • Destigmatizing treatment: Openly discuss mental health care with your doctor, family, and friends. Normalize seeking help and encourage others to do the same.

Remember, mental health care is a right, not a privilege. Anyone can access affordable and effective mental health services with knowledge, proactive planning, and the right resources. Be empowered to break down barriers, advocate for your well-being, and prioritize your mental health as an essential part of your overall health and well-being.

Understanding the interplay between neurodiversity, disabilities, and mental health is crucial for providing holistic support and building an inclusive society. Let’s delve into this complex landscape, exploring their interconnectedness and potential co-occurrence:

Co-occurring Physical and Intellectual Disabilities:

  • Neurodiversity and physical disabilities: Some neurodivergent individuals, like those with autism or ADHD, may co-occur with physical disabilities like sensory processing disorders, motor skills challenges, or chronic pain.
  • Neurodiversity and intellectual disabilities: While not synonymous, certain neurodevelopmental conditions like intellectual disability can intersect with neurodiversity, presenting unique challenges and requiring tailored support strategies.
  • Intersectionality and complexities: It’s essential to recognize that individuals experience these conditions with varying degrees and combinations, necessitating personalized assessments and care.

Tailored Treatment Approaches:

  • Moving beyond one-size-fits-all: Traditional mental health interventions may not be effective for individuals with co-occurring conditions. Recognizing the interplay between neurodiversity, disability, and mental health is crucial for developing personalized treatment plans.
  • Integration of therapeutic approaches: Combining psychotherapeutic modalities like CBT with alternative therapies like occupational therapy or sensory integration can cater to specific needs and address underlying challenges more effectively.
  • Collaboration between professionals: Collaboration among mental health professionals, disability specialists, and neurodivergent specialists is key to providing comprehensive and coordinated care.

Accommodations and Accessibility:

  • Breaking down barriers: Accessibility measures like modified work environments, flexible schedules, and assistive technology can empower individuals with co-occurring conditions to participate fully in education, employment, and social life.
  • Promoting understanding and inclusion: Raising awareness and fostering inclusivity within communities and social settings is crucial for reducing stigma and creating supportive environments for individuals with diverse needs.
  • Advocacy and policy changes: Advocating for accessible healthcare, inclusive education, and disability rights policies ensures individuals with co-occurring conditions have equal opportunities to thrive.

Addressing Common Concerns:

  • Misdiagnosis and underdiagnosis: Recognizing the complexities of co-occurring conditions and ensuring access to qualified professionals specializing in this area is vital for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
  • Mental health stigma: Combating stigma surrounding both mental health and neurodiversity is crucial for encouraging individuals to seek help and access the support they need.
  • Intersectionality and additional vulnerabilities: Acknowledging the increased vulnerability faced by individuals with marginalized identities further underscores the need for tailored support systems and inclusive practices.

A Guide to Teen and Youth Mental Health

Adolescence and young adulthood are pivotal stages marked by rapid physical, emotional, and social changes. While exciting, these years can also bring unique mental health challenges for teens and young adults. Let’s dive deeper into this crucial topic, exploring key concerns, available resources, and ways to support their well-being:

Age-Specific Challenges:

  • Identity development: Grappling with questions about identity, belonging, and self-worth can be a significant source of stress for teens. Peer pressure, social media influences, and changing family dynamics further intensify these complexities.
  • Academic pressures: Academic expectations, standardized testing, and career choices can fuel anxiety and pressure to achieve perfection. Balancing academic demands with social development and emotional well-being can be a tricky act.
  • Cyberbullying and online safety: The online world presents new platforms for communication and exploration, but it also exposes teens to cyberbullying, unrealistic expectations, and potential safety risks. Navigating digital spaces responsibly and maintaining healthy boundaries is crucial.
  • Substance use and experimentation: Experimentation with alcohol, drugs, or tobacco is relatively common during adolescence. However, understanding the risks associated with substance use and fostering open communication with parents and trusted adults is essential for preventing harmful patterns.
  • Relationship dynamics: Building healthy romantic and platonic relationships is a key developmental task for teens. However, navigating crushes, breakups, and peer group dynamics can be emotionally challenging, potentially leading to feelings of isolation or self-doubt.

Resources for Parents/Educators:

  • Open communication: Fostering open and honest communication about mental health with teens is paramount. Create a safe space for them to express their feelings and concerns without judgement.
  • Knowledge and awareness: Equip yourself with information about common mental health challenges faced by teens, including signs and symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other conditions. Resources like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the American Psychological Association (APA) offer valuable information and support.
  • School involvement: Collaborate with teachers and school counselors to create supportive learning environments that prioritize mental well-being. Encourage schools to implement mental health awareness programs and provide access to on-site counseling services.
  • Positive role models: Be a positive role model by demonstrating healthy coping mechanisms for stress and emotional challenges. Encourage physical activity, relaxation techniques, and open communication within your family unit.
  • Seeking professional help: Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you notice concerning changes in your teen’s behavior or emotional state. Consult with a child psychologist, therapist, or other qualified mental health professional.

Risks and Warning Signs:

  • Social withdrawal: Significant isolation from friends and family, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, and changes in sleep patterns can be indicators of underlying emotional distress.
  • Changes in mood and behavior: Excessive sadness, anger, irritability, or drastic changes in personality are potential warning signs that require attention.
  • Self-harm or suicidal ideation: Expressions of self-harm, thoughts of suicide, or statements about “not wanting to be here anymore” should be taken seriously and addressed immediately.


  • Mental health challenges are common and treatable. Supporting teens and young adults through their struggles requires open communication, access to resources, and collaboration between families, schools, and mental health professionals.
  • By prioritizing mental well-being and creating supportive environments, we can empower our young people to navigate this crucial stage of development with resilience and positive mental health.

Barriers to Mental Health Care in Underserved Communities

While the importance of mental health is now widely recognized, accessing quality care remains a significant challenge for many individuals within underserved communities. These communities often face a multitude of systemic barriers that impede their ability to receive the support they need, creating an invisible wall between them and the crucial resources that could change their lives. Let’s shed light on these obstacles and explore potential solutions:

Systemic Obstacles Marginalized Groups Face:

  • Financial hardship: Lack of health insurance, underemployment, and poverty pose significant barriers to affording mental health services, often deemed non-essential by insurance plans.
  • Geographic disparities: Rural communities and marginalized neighborhoods often lack access to qualified mental health professionals and treatment facilities, creating a physical and logistical hurdle.
  • Cultural insensitivity: Culturally incompetent treatment approaches that fail to recognize diverse backgrounds, values, and beliefs can lead to misdiagnosis, inadequate care, and feelings of alienation.
  • Stigma and discrimination: Fear of judgment, societal stigma surrounding mental health, and internalized shame within certain communities can prevent individuals from seeking help, compounding existing burdens.
  • Language barriers: Limited access to language interpreters and culturally appropriate resources for non-English speaking individuals further excludes them from accessing adequate mental health care.

Ensuring Cultural Competence in Treatment:

  • Diversity and inclusion training: Equipping mental health professionals with cultural competency training helps them understand and address the unique needs and concerns of diverse populations.
  • Multilingual resources: Offering support services and materials in multiple languages ensures non-English speaking individuals have equal access to information and care.
  • Community partnerships: Collaborating with community organizations, leaders, and faith-based groups can foster trust, increase awareness, and provide culturally relevant outreach programs.
  • Culturally informed therapy models: Integrating culturally informed therapeutic approaches that resonate with specific backgrounds and belief systems can enhance engagement and effectiveness.

Outreach Initiatives to Improve Access:

  • Mobile mental health clinics: Deploying mobile units to underserved communities brings services closer to those who need them most, addressing geographic barriers and fostering accessibility.
  • Telehealth and online resources: Expanding access to telehealth platforms and online mental health resources can remove location constraints and reduce stigma associated with seeking in-person help.
  • Peer support groups: Fostering peer support groups within communities builds understanding, reduces isolation, and provides safe spaces for individuals to share experiences and empower one another.
  • Leveraging technology: Utilizing culturally relevant social media campaigns and digital outreach can raise awareness, dispel myths, and connect individuals with available resources.

Breaking Down the Barriers:

Addressing the systemic obstacles faced by underserved communities requires a multi-pronged approach. By advocating for increased funding, promoting cultural competency in treatment, and implementing effective outreach initiatives, we can begin to dismantle the invisible walls and ensure equitable access to quality mental health care for all. This journey requires collaboration, empathy, and a commitment to dismantling systemic inequities that perpetuate mental health disparities.

FAQs: Navigating the Maze of Mental Health Care in Underserved Communities

Q: What are the biggest challenges underserved communities face in accessing mental health care?

A: The hurdles are numerous, including financial hardship, lack of nearby qualified professionals, cultural insensitivity in treatment approaches, societal stigma, and language barriers.

Q: How can mental health professionals become more culturally competent?

A: Diversity and inclusion training, using culturally informed therapy models, and partnering with community organizations are crucial steps towards providing effective care for diverse populations.

Q: What are some ways to improve access to mental health services in underserved communities?

A: Mobile mental health clinics, telehealth platforms, culturally relevant peer support groups, and targeted social media campaigns can play a significant role in breaking down barriers and connecting individuals with needed resources.

Q: How can I support efforts to improve mental health access in underserved communities?

A: Supporting community-based organizations, advocating for policy changes, promoting mental health awareness, and sharing information about available resources are all impactful ways to contribute to positive change.

Q: Where can I find culturally competent mental health professionals in my area?

A: Resources like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the American Psychological Association (APA) offer directories of providers, often with filters for cultural competency and preferred languages.

Conclusion: Building Bridges, Not Walls

The barriers to quality mental health care faced by underserved communities are real and complex. However, by acknowledging these challenges, fostering cultural competency within the healthcare system, and implementing innovative outreach initiatives, we can begin to dismantle the invisible walls and build bridges towards a more equitable future. In this future, everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, has the opportunity to prioritize their mental well-being and live a fulfilling life.

Let’s commit to working together, with empathy and dedication, to create a world where mental health care is accessible and inclusive for all. Remember, even small steps towards breaking down barriers and promoting mental health awareness can make a significant difference in the lives of individuals and communities facing immense challenges.

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