Published: 4 December 2020
The Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a free, confidential and independent service for all HSE staff. It is here to support employees who are experiencing personal or work-related issues that may be affecting their mental health, their job performance or home life.
All of us can experience challenging or stressful periods in our lives, both at work and at home. The many months on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, have taken its toll on health service staff. Talking to someone who understands can really help. The service, which keeps the highest standard of confidentiality, is open to all staff and you can self-refer to the programme at any time. You do not need permission or approval.
Given the current climate and challenges faced by our staff over the last nine months, it is more important than ever that we make our staff aware of this support, normalise accessing the service, and encourage our staff to seek support and help to combat feelings of helplessness and overwhelm.
We would urge staff to use the EAP service early before problems worsen. Sometimes delaying seeking help may cause you to experience more distress than you otherwise would.
Call 0818 327 327 to access EAP from anywhere in the country. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone – our trained EAP counsellor therapists are ready to listen and help
EAP provides a suite of services including:
- Consultation to managers on staff wellbeing and psychosocial issues
- Critical Incident Stress Management (C.I.S.M.) Response - individual and group support and pre-incident training
- Workshops on staff wellbeing issues
The newly appointed external service provider also offers staff access to an online support platform. The support hub provides 24/7 instant access to a wide range of EAP resources, including information and guidance on wellbeing topics as well as signposting staff to support and intervention through online self-assessment.
From March 2020 to the end of November 2020, a total of 6270 staff were supported by EAP counsellors. As well as providing 3236 counselling sessions, the EAP service delivered 3460 manager consultation and psychosocial support calls.
Ann Callanan, a counsellor with the programme since 2006, urged HSE staff struggling with the stresses brought on or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic to get in contact.
She highlighted the value of speaking to a counsellor familiar with the unique pressures of working in the health service.
“Having a confidential space within the organisation is really important to staff. A regular piece of feedback that we receive is that staff value the validation they get from being heard, by someone who understands the workings of the HSE. I think we give staff the opportunity to be heard, without having to shout,” said Ann.
“I feel that the emotional burden that HSE staff carry with them, because of the nature of their work, often goes unnoticed. A service like EAP is key to shining a light on this and supporting staff to prioritise their wellbeing, while they’re taking care of others. I focus a lot on self-care, which, on the surface sounds like a great idea! But the reality is that self-care is hard work. It’s difficult to prioritise it and it’s difficult to maintain it. Accessing our service gives staff the space to think about the challenges they experience and can provide a framework for making it happen.”
Ann explained that one-to-one counselling sessions with staff make up the core part of her day.
“Staff seek support for a lot of different reasons. Some come for support with personal problems, such as relationship difficulties, or bereavement, general anxiety. Others come for work-related issues such as bullying, work stress, grievances or feeling overwhelmed with life,” said the counsellor.
“Another part of our work is supporting teams of staff following traumatic events, such as the sudden death of a patient, or an assault at work. This involves Critical Incident Stress Management debrief sessions, which give staff the space to process the event from an emotional perspective and reflect on how it impacted on them. We try to normalise their reactions and support them to look after themselves.”
For more information about the EAP service and to access an online hub of resources go to hse.ie/EAPandme.
Join the conversation on Twitter #EAPandME
Download and print EAPandMe campaign posters for your staff notice board