Donegal feels fear factor

A leading counsellor says as well as seeing a significant rise in stress and anxiety among people, many are now experiencing a debilitating “new sense of fear” as they struggle just to get by.

A leading counsellor says as well as seeing a significant rise in stress and anxiety among people, many are now experiencing a debilitating “new sense of fear” as they struggle just to get by.

Well-known south Donegal based priest and counsellor, Fr James Sweeney, says for the first time in his work he is experiencing people developing a “gripping” fear because of the economic climate and the uncertainty it brings.

Fr Sweeney says not enough is being done to assist the most vulnerable and the authorities are failing to recognise the difficulty some face with basic living costs such as food, clothing, heating and household bills.

He explains: “There is a real worry that things are not picking up. People are worrying about that and worrying about their children and what they will do. It affects peoples’ mental health and is a huge cause of stress and anxiety. That is what we are experiencing (as counsellors). This fear is separate and distinct in terms of mental health. There has always been depression in society but this is an anxiety that is driven just by a struggle to live.”

“If you didn’t have organisations like St Vincent de Paul and other groups it would be difficult. But it is difficult too for people to come forward for help, say to pay an ESB bill or for a food voucher. There is a kind of shame in it for people and that adds to their stress as they might know someone on the committee or the like. That is a level of anxiety I feel people should not have to go through,” he added.

Fr James says those most in need are not being recognised by the Government.

“Coming from my counselling background, it is almost a kind of fact that the people in Government or in power, don’t seem to recognise that people are struggling. They are getting bills landing on their tables saying pay this, pay that, pay something else. That’s all fine if you have the money to pay for it but certainly some of the people I’m encountering simply do not have it.”

He says this new phenomena can have a “gripping effect”.

“It’s one thing I, and other counsellors I’m sure, would be dealing with. There has always been a certain amount of depression about. That was a thing that would occur on a regular basis but I think it was more from a medical condition.

“I believe there is a new sense of fear in people of them losing their jobs or whether they can pay their next bill.

“It is a new sense of fear that I have experienced in my work. There is an anxiousness in people that is a different kind of anxiousness.

Read more in today’s Donegal Democrat