Suicide awareness charity PIPS Larne is to start using environmentally-friendly biodegradeable ballons for its annual balloon release.
The balloon release ceremony is held every year on World Suicide Prevention Day, providing grieving families with a means of commemorating their loved ones.
After a suggestion that traditional balloons could prove hazardous to wildlife, the organisation now plans to ship in special latex balloons, which break down at the same rate as a leaf, and which have compostable strings.
“We only release around 20 balloons and we have never had any reports of them causing harm to wildlife, but we decided to take this proactive step,” said PIPS Larne Chair Carlee Letson.
“I asked the families if they thought we should look for an alternative to the balloon release or keep doing it, and every hand went up in favour of keeping it.
“One lady said it is more than a balloon release; it allows them to let go of some of their pain and also to come together with other families so they know they are not alone.
“Although the balloon release is symbolic it also has real emotional benefits.”
This year’s event was particularly poignant for Carlee as she prepared to celebrate the tenth anniversary of her brother Arthur’s passing.
“It means a lot to me and to others in the group, it gives a feeling of peace and the group is like a wee family,” she concluded.