Larne kids at risk of suicide are ‘crying out’ for mental health facility

PIPS Larne chair, Carlee Letson. INLT 37-005-PSB

PIPS Larne chair, Carlee Letson. INLT 37-005-PSB

A Larne suicide prevention charity has called for a secure children’s mental health unit for Northern Ireland, claiming it could help save countless lives.

PIPS Larne, a voluntary organisation dedicated to increasing awareness around suicide and self-harm, told the Times that young people in East Antrim who are at risk of suicide and suffering from addiction problems are “crying out” for a facility where they can receive specialist treatment in their hour of need.

Chair of the group, Carlee Letson warned that suicide rates were on the rise and claimed that young people were not getting the help they need.

And she has rejected claims by the Department of Health that there is not enough demand for such a facility in the province.

“PIPS has been screaming for a secure unit for U18s who have addiction problems for quite a while now,” Carlee said.

“There is absolutely nothing out there for young people and a facility like this would mean all the help in the world. To a certain extent, our hands are tied when it comes to the help we can offer young people due to child protection laws.

“If someone under the age of 18 comes to us, we need the permission of a parent before we can offer counselling. Often they don’t want to involve their parents, so that can put them off seeking help.

“And even if they do get parental consent to take part counselling sessions, we are required to inform the young person that anything they tell us about potentially causing harm to themselves or other people, we have to report that to the relevant authorities, at which point they will likely clam up and not say how they are really feeling.

“A lot of the time all we can really do is refer them on to their GP or to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), which currently has an eight month waiting list. That is no good to a young people who is contemplating suicide.

“It is just not right and the government needs to be doing more to help.”

The Department of Health said there was not sufficient demand for a secure unit, adding that the priority for the future would be strengthening existing provision in early intervention and intensive community based support.

One of the key aims of PIPS is to reduce the stigma surrounding suicide and encourage people to seek out help.

And the organisation is hoping to open the doors of its newly acquired headquarters on Larne Main Street in 2017, offering a fit-for-purpose facility in a prominent location. In the meantime, the group is preparing to move into temporary accommodation at Stylux Business Park, Larne at the end of August/start of September.

Carlee added: “Suicide is something which affects the entire community and we hope that by launching our new premises we can help break down barriers and make it easier for young people to come and talk to us.”

Carlee is now urging people to sign a petition launched by Bangor man Simon Mackey, which calls for a new specialist children’s and adolescent mental health hospital for Northern Ireland. Anyone who wishes to support this campaign can do so by clicking here.

PIPs Larne receives no government funding, so it is through the kindness of the general public that it survives and is able to continue providing help and support.

Anyone interested in donating to PIPS Larne should visit www.justgiving.com/pips-larne/