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Work/life stress calls to helpline rise

Monday, July 21 11:42:55

There has been a sharp rise in the number of Irish employees seeking help with 58pc of calls to a helpline having to do with work and life-related stress.

That's according to Maura Kilcoyne, MD at EAP Consultants and the new President of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) of Ireland.

She said that the need for employee assistance programmes has never been so great as today.

"We're really seeing an increased uptake of the service across the board, she explains. "Over 1,000 people called our helpline between January and June last year and this year we've already seen a 20 per cent increase on that figure for the same period."

Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) provide companies and their staff with an external confidential helpline and counselling service, as well as auxiliary services such as financial and legal information. Maura says the type of calls received so far this year reflects current global trends. "58pc of calls to our helpline were related to stress and anxiety. This is a colossal figure - and it's indicative of issues in our society. Globally, stress is the top cause of long-term absence from the workplace and as we can see from the figures, it's a problem here too."

However, she adds that organisations are tackling these problems by providing services like employee assistance programmes. "People are calling in about their issues, and that's a good thing. It means they have recognised they're going through a difficult time and are asking us to help them deal with it. That can only be a positive step."

EAPs allow people to access counselling and other services - like legal and financial information - who may not have had access to it in other circumstances: "Whether that's because of the cost, waiting lists for public services or a lack of awareness of the private services available, some people don't seek help when they're going through a difficult time. People who have employee assistance programmes are using them - and it's a great support for them."

Although employee assistance programmes can help to support people with mental health issues and stress and anxiety, they're there for any life or work issues. "Over one in 25 of our calls were from those going through a bereavement, 23 per cent called in relation to a family or relationship issue, and a small, yet very significant number called in for addiction 1.5 per cent. Providing staff with confidential support for these types of issues is a really positive development and it's fantastic that employees are choosing to get help."

The new President of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) of Ireland and the Dublin-based business owner says that in order to ensure that counsellors are providing the best quality service to the employee assistance programmes and the organisations it serves, EAPA is essential.

"EAPA helps to regulate the employee assistance programme profession and really allows our members to access cost effective services and training, which helps our counsellors to deliver a high quality level of service," explains Maura.

And the Mayo native has a vision for the membership during her presidency this year: "This year we'd really like to improve the membership and expand services, but more than that I'd like to have members getting involved on a committee level. We hope to invite members to join our committee meetings to let us know their thoughts on what we're doing right, what we're doing wrong and where we could improve."

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