Suicide prevention charity PIPS Larne has experienced its busiest Christmas and New Year period since it opened eight years ago.
The organisation’s coordinator and chairperson Carlee Letson says that demand for its services increased by over 100 per cent compared with the previous holiday period.
“We helped over 20 people this year,” Carlee told the Times.
“It has been the most challenging since PIPS Larne started.
“There is a traditional surge in demand over Christmas as people are thinking about loved ones who are no longer with them, they have financial worries and worry how they will pay the bills and get presents as well as putting dinner on the table and getting the house ready.
“Some people have had their benefits cut and they can’t get presents for their kids.
“Loneliness is also a big issue.
“People are sitting on their own, perhaps their family is living somewhere else and they can’t drive and there is no public transport and no shops open so they have no-one to talk to.”
Carlee says she can empathise with the struggles faced by those missing loved ones over the festive season, as her own brother Arthur took his own life in 2006.
“Christmas is one of the most stressful times for people and I have visited people across the borough who have sought our help,” she continued.
“Sometimes the stress comes from people being close together in the same house and with pain being present that can cause divisions in families.
“Our phone line is covered 24/7, it diverts to Lifeline in the evening and I would ask people to get in touch with us that way rather than social media, which is not staffed around the clock.”
Despite the hectic festive period, Carlee has had reason to celebrate.
After studying at Ballymena’s Northern Regional College, she has achieved a Level 4 Certificate in Counselling Studies, awarded by Ulster University.
“It entitles me to be a counsellor working one-on-one with people and when our new headquarters at the old Woodside’s opens I will be a resident counsellor,” she explained.
“I hope to go on to do a three year degree and Master’s in counselling, then study psychology for a year.”
To contact PIPS Larne , telephone 07530 797716.