Readers of the Larne, Carrick and Newtownabbey Times have voted Larne woman Carlee Letson as east Antrim’s top Person To Be Proud Of.
The competition - organised by the Times in conjunction with Firmus Energy - attracted worthy nominations from all walks of life. Readers were then encouraged to vote for their favourite.
“I was completely shocked to hear that I had won,” said Carlee , founder of the suicide awareness and prevention charity Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-Harm (PIPS) in Larne.
Carlee lost her brother Arthur to suicide in 2006. At that time she felt there was a lack of support for others in a similar situation and she was encouraged to set up a local PIPS group. A petition campaign attracting a staggering 1,800 signatures proved beyond doubt there was such a need in the area. Assistance from PIPS Belfast helped get the local group up and running and through the enthusiasm and dedication of Carlee and the team it is now really making an impact locally.
PIPS Larne runs a confidential helpline which offers advice and support in a variety of ways to suit each individual case.
The group also hosts a range of courses, including suicide prevention and awareness training to cover all age groups.
“Everyone, regardless of age or background can be affected by suicide,” said Carlee. “It can happen to anyone.”
Awareness of the work of PIPS Larne is steadily growing, as the group highlights its aims throughout the community.
Larne Football Club has come on board as a PIPS sponsor with the group’s logo on the new club shirts.
However, Carlee believes that the group would really go from strength to strength if it had premises of its own.
“We are in a position to apply for funding for premises. We would need somewhere across two floors and with disabled access, but it really would make a world of difference to the service that we can provide,” she said.
Carlee said she was “absolutely delighted” to receive the Person To Be Proud Of award.
“PIPS is very close to my heart and I hope that through this award awareness for what the group is all about can grow even more. I believe that everybody has a duty to protect life,” she said.