Increasing access to mental healthcare in Ireland

Mental health illnesses impact more than 84 million people across the European Union, with Ireland being one of the most affected countries. Across Ireland, but particularly in rural communities, access to support services can change everything. Turn2Me is an Irish nonprofit on a mission to offer safe and timely mental health services online and break the stigma. sat down with Fiona O’Malley, CEO, to learn more.

What is Turn2Me’s story?

Oisin and Diarmuid Scollard funded Turn2Me in 2009, six years after their brother Cormac committed suicide. The vision was to create a safe space for anyone in need to get professional help online. In 2013, Turn2Me gained the support of the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention to deliver counseling online. Over the years, we have assisted more than 110,000 people with one-to-one and group support services online and our website now has 45,000 active users.

How is Turn2Me increasing access to mental healthcare in Ireland?

Our online-first, year-round free assistance helps us reach people who might otherwise be excluded because of the cost of counseling services or their location. We also join forces with other nonprofits to make our services known in rural areas across Ireland – and among young generations, LGBTQIA+ groups, and more.

Headshot of Fiona O'Malley, the interviewee, CEO of Turn2Me

Fiona O’Malley, CEO, Turn2Me

Technology is at the core of what you do. Can you tell us more about how tech solutions can drive social impact?

We know that peer support, awareness and timely access to help and information play a crucial part in mental health. Turn2me is one of the first online mental health services in the world and a great example of how investments in technology can help people feel more connected and heard.

We have invested in a custom-built platform where our users can book one-to-one counseling and support groups, but also share their thoughts and experiences 24/7 in a moderated, safe community. The Thought Catcher is an online mood diary popular with younger generations – users can select their mood, share feelings anonymously, track mood changes and receive supportive, uplifting messages. Our trained staff moderates the community and points users to resources and services.

Last but not least, we also use Ad Grants to run ads on Google Search at no cost and reach a wider audience – our sign-ups are dependent on word of mouth and online reach, and about 60% of our new website users come through ads.

A team of only six people runs Turn2Me. How do you manage?

Again technology, which helps us run things smoothly and efficiently. We’ve been part of Google for Nonprofits for years, which has given us access to Google Workspace for Nonprofits, improving operations and collaboration. For example, we use Docs to update our policies and share minutes of Board meetings and Meet to regularly keep in touch with other mental health nonprofits and find synergies.

Not having to pay for Ad Grants or Google Workspace means that resources can be reinvested in our programs, which helps us support between 30 and 100 more people every year.

We’re also incredibly lucky to have many wonderful volunteers along with our Board, which includes Oisin and Diarmuid Scollard, our founders. Like many families in Ireland, they know first-hand the importance of adequate mental health services and are passionate about driving change.

As a CEO, what would be your best advice to someone who’s just getting started in the nonprofit space?

I believe vision matters. Our belief in our cause combined with the immense support of the many people who help us are what help us thrive. With a bold vision, you can achieve so much.