Father Tom Devereux, an Irish Catholic priest serving as chaplain in Bondi, Australia, said that he is encountering more and more Irish emigrants suffering from “psychiatric problems.”

The Irish Echo in Australia reports that Fr Devereux believes the number of Irish emigrants struggling to adjust to a new life abroad is an increasing problem.

“Even recently, what I’ve found is that I’ve had a number of young lads in with psychiatric problems,” Fr Devereux told the Irish Echo.

Fr Devereux cites the transition from rural to urban life, as well as the relatively young age at emigration as the main cause of problems for Irish emigrants.

“I suppose with the kind of numbers that are coming out, that’s going to increase as well. Sometimes youngsters just can’t cope with the city,” he said.

He added, “It gets too big, or there’s a breakdown in a relationship, they can’t get work, or the friends go in different directions and they’re left high and dry.”

“Some of them are coming from the countryside, and Sydney is probably the first major city they have ever had to deal with and it can be very lonely. And obviously, others that can get in trouble with drink and drugs.”

While serving as chaplain, Fr Devereux also works closely with the Irish Australian Welfare Bureau in Bondi. The priest said he tries to help the struggling emigrants by acting as a “father figure” towards them. 

“I don’t try to lecture them,” said Fr Devereux. “I see myself as a father figure to them out here. Not a father figure in a religious sense. A father figure [in] that, if something goes wrong, they can come and talk to me and just share with me what’s happening to them. I always say to them, if something is happening to you, close ranks, look after one another.”

Fr Devereux offered advice for any emigrants heading to Australia: “The one thing that we keep plugging even at the welfare meetings is having bloody insurance. They won’t pay for insurance. That can give them great problems if things go wrong they have nothing to fall back on.”