Call For Volunteers To Help People Who Use Substances At Irish Festivals

Non-profit festival welfare service, PsyCare Ireland, is calling for volunteers to provide psychological care for people facing mental, emotional or substance-induced distress at Irish festivals this summer. The organisation provides 24-hour welfare services for festival attendees in psychological difficulty and provides specialist substance crisis intervention to those affected by drugs and/or alcohol. It also provides substance harm reduction information to the public at Irish events. 

 PsyCare Ireland is calling for volunteers who will engage in specialised training and are willing to work at least one Irish festival this summer. The organisation will accept online applications from the 13th of February until the 13th of April. Skills such as first aid, medical training and counselling are desirable but not essential.  

Training is facilitated by a core team that includes nurses, psychiatrists and psychotherapists and will take place in two blocks, one online and then one in-person skills day in Dublin. Volunteers will learn about drug combinations and interactions so they can educate festivalgoers to make informed decisions. The training also covers how to recognise if someone needs medical attention, how to provide comfort and care to someone who is experiencing psychological difficulties and how to support those in a substance-induced crisis. The volunteers will work from softly furnished tents; a welcoming environment for people in need.  

Last year, PsyCare Ireland trained 40 volunteers and provided support at five festivals, including Day of the Dead and Fuinneamh. They also hosted a harm reduction workshop at Electric Picnic. They believe that mental health services at festivals can be lifesaving. 

PsyCare Ireland is volunteer-led and was established in 2021 by a passionate team of experienced professionals and festival goers. The founding members saw a need to provide a peer-to-peer welfare service to Irish festival-goers. They were inspired by similar successful projects such as PsyCare UK and Kosmicare in Portugal. 

PsyCare Ireland’s mission is to provide their services to anyone in need in the festival and concert scene. However,  they hope that through education, there will come a time when their services are no longer needed.

PsyCare Ireland founding members include Dr Kathryn Ledden, a medical doctor working in psychiatry; and her brother Michael Ledden, a psychotherapist.

Dr Kathryn Ledden said: “I’m excited to bring my experience in psychiatry, social care, psychology and international harm reduction volunteering to Irish festival-goers. This is a much-needed service in Ireland, and I’ve experienced first-hand how it can help not only the festival-goers but also the medics and Gardaí working at festivals.”

Psychotherapist Michael Ledden said: “We’ve seen abroad how services such as ours can help change people’s attitudes to substances and how someone’s darkest hour can be transformed when they feel cared for and supported. We are the first dedicated organisation to offer this care model to gig-goers in Ireland, and we want to hear from people who would like to join our dynamic team to support others in crisis.”

Volunteers can apply online

Every year, over a million people attend Irish music festivals. In 2021, a HSE survey found that 94.2% of 1,193 respondents said they had used drugs at festivals, with many reporting polydrug use and mixing drugs and alcohol. 

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