A local councillor is calling for more suicide awareness outreach programmes in rural communities to boost local mental health provision.
Cllr James McKeown issued the call on the occasion of World Suicide Prevention Day on Saturday, September 10.
The Public Health Association initiative highlights the importance of checking in with someone if you are concerned about them and asking them how they are feeling.
Cllr McKeown told the Times that he recently attended two funerals of suicide victims, and believes that rural communities need more support to tackle the issue.
“I would like to see an initiative which specifically targets suicide prevention in rural communities,” he said.
“There is a sense of isolation in rural communities and more mental health support is needed around suicide prevention.
“Most of the suicide awareness services are located in towns but it is very difficult for people who don’t drive and who live in towns such as Carnlough and Glenarm to access these facilities.
“I think that something should be brought into the community to help, like a clinic or support group.”
Recently, Childline’s annual report revealed that it had received a call from children experiencing suicidal thoughts in Northern Ireland almost every day for the past year.
Local workers carried out a total of 349 counselling sessions with children at risk of suicide in 2015/16.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2014 there were 268 were suicides in Northern Ireland, 207 of which occurred among men.
Northern Ireland has had the highest suicide rate in the UK since 2012, with 16.5 deaths per 100,000 population.
“If you are feeling suicidal it is important to talk to someone,” Cllr McKeown continued. “No matter how bad you’re feeling or what’s going on in your life someone else has felt it or gone through it and there are people out there who can help without being judgemental.
“It’s important to talk, particularly for young men.
“There is less stigma around suicide now but on the island of Ireland there is at least one suicide every day, and I would like to see that figure decrease.
Cllr McKeown also praised the Men’s Shed initiative, which is currently poised to open two groups in Larne and Carrickfergus.
“It’s an excellent idea and it should be rolled out as much as possible within towns and rural areas,” he concluded.
Local suicide prevention charity PIPS Larne marked World Suicide Prevention Day with a balloon release outside Larne town hall.
The local group also recently held a fundraising ‘Walk a Mile in My Shoes’ event, which raised over £1,500 to fund their suicide prevention support services.
Responding to Cllr McKeown’s call, PIPS Larne Chairperson Carlee Letson said that the group would be willing to hold counselling and information sessions in community halls.
“If people approach us we would be willling to hold counselling services and awarenedss raising sessions in community halls,” she stated.
“We are trying to reach out to everyone in the community.”
Contact PIPS Larne’s helpline on 07530797716 or Lifeline on 08088088000.