PIPS Chair calls for action to tackle high suicide rate

Speakers at the World Suicide Prevention Day event Carlee Letson and Gillian Leitch-Armstrong from PIPS Larne and Mayor of Larne, Martin Wilson. INLT 39-003-PSB
Speakers at the World Suicide Prevention Day event Carlee Letson and Gillian Leitch-Armstrong from PIPS Larne and Mayor of Larne, Martin Wilson. INLT 39-003-PSB

PIPS Larne’s head wants P5 pupils to receive suicide awareness training as figures showed the Province still has the UK’s highest suicide rate.

The suicide prevention charity’s Co-ordinator and Chair Carlee Letson was reacting to new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which showed that while the suicide rate within the Province has decreased, it continues to have the highest rate of suicide in the UK per head of population.

In 2014, there were 207 deaths from suicide in Northern Ireland, compared with 229 in 2013.

Carlee told the Times that she was “not surprised” by the statistics.

“I believe that part of it is the legacy of the Troubles, which still has an impact on people due to the trauma left behind,” she told the Times.

“That is transmitted to the next generation, as even if the parents don’t talk about it the kids pick up on it. There’s also still a stigma around mental health problems and a lot of people are too afraid to come forward as they feel ashamed to talk about how they feel”.

Carlee says that the current economic situation with high unemployment rates and fewer outlets for young people has also played a part in increasing levels of suicide and self-harm.

“Young people don’t realise that alcohol is a form of self-harm,” she continued.

“People are depressed and they turn to drugs and alcohol. I believe that there is a link between legal highs and suicide. When we go into schools we teach them to look out for the signs of suicide, like a change in personality or giving away precious possessions.

“We deliver talks on suicide awareness and self-harm in secondary schools and we would like to get into primary schools. We would deliver it in language kids would understand and it wouldn’t be done in a graphic way.”

On Tuesday (February 9), PIPS Larne launched two new programmes to support people with mental health problems.

“We have launched a six-week programme with the Music Yard and Centrepoint to encourage positive mental health through music,” Carlee revealed.

“We have professional tutors who teach them to play. We have also launched a horticultural programme with Centrepoint whereby they will give us a plot for a year and our users can cultivate plants. It helps promote good mental health.”

PIPS Larne is also working with unemployment charity Network Personnel, who will host an hour-long suicide awareness session on February 15. For information contact Linda Purvis on 02828580188.

Meanwhile, PIPS Larne has embarked upon an online funding campaign to raise £30,000 for its new Main Street headquarters. The premises will contain a charity shop, counselling rooms and complimentary therapy rooms. Donate via the Justgiving page. Contact PIPS Larne’s helpline on 07530 797716.