£200,000 grant secured to expand counselling service

Published: March 11 2022
Last updated: May 12 2023

National charity Epilepsy Action will expand its counselling service for people with epilepsy in Northern Ireland, after securing a £200,000 grant from the Department of Health Northern Ireland.

The grant is an award from NI Department of Health’s Mental Health Support Fund, which was set up to help charities to provide mental health support in the communities.

People with epilepsy are twice as likely to have depression than people without, and suicide rates can be twice as high in people with epilepsy than people without.

Currently, the counselling service includes free online and telephone counselling for adults with epilepsy, or parents or carers to someone with the condition, who are based in NI. Online counselling is done on the video conferencing application Zoom, and instructions are provided at registration.

The counselling sessions take place once a week, for 6-8 weeks, and each session lasts 50 minutes. They are delivered through qualified volunteer counsellors. To register, you can fill in the enquiry form on the Epilepsy Action website.

With the grant, Epilepsy Action Northern Ireland will be able to expand its counselling services. It will also offer online therapy groups covering issues like new diagnosis, independence and change to relationships, as well as resilience sessions teaching self-help techniques. The funding will also help the organisation develop training materials and resources for counsellors.

Carla Smyth, Northern Ireland manager at Epilepsy Action, said: “We’re delighted to have secured over £200,000 to help us continue our counselling service in Northern Ireland. We know how much epilepsy can have such a wide-reaching impact on people’s lives and talking to someone can make a huge difference.”

One user of the counselling service said: “I really benefitted from the counselling sessions. I was struggling emotionally, having great difficulty in accepting my diagnosis. My counsellor guided and helped me to explore these emotions and gain a greater level of acceptance by realising I can still live a full life, albeit in a different way. Thank you for providing such wonderful support.”

Another said: “My counsellor was excellent throughout. She helped me with the anxiety that my wife and I had been having since her diagnosis. My wife and I now have a better plan in dealing with her epilepsy on a daily basis.”

According to another user: “[The counselling] has made a big difference to my confidence. I previously had dismissed counselling when others had mentioned it, but now I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to people. The counsellor was really good and I felt at ease with her.”

There is more information about the counselling service online.