Suicide prevention charity PIPS Larne is urging people with mental health problems not to suffer in silence over Christmas.
PIPS volunteer and treasurer Peter McAllister told The Times that the festive period is particularly difficult for those with mental health issues.
He stated: “In a lot of cases there are memories of trauma and things that happened in the past that bother them.
“We would see an increase in the number of clients at this time of year, typically with around 10-15 new clients over Christmas. In the past week we have already taken on five more people.”
Despite the idealised image of Christmas as a perfect family holiday, Peter says that several factors increase stress at this time of year. He explained: “There is an increase in pressure in the home environment, trauma and family issues.
“Christmas is a family time and we find a lot of people who don’t have their family any more as they are deceased or they don’t have contact.
“At this time of year it’s highlighted that they don’t have that bond with family that people take for granted, so they feel isolated and alone.”
Peter says that one of the most important ways to tackle mental health issues is to talk about them. He continued: “Speak to someone, don’t keep it inside and try to cope on your own.
“People have a fear of talking about mental health and we’re trying to get rid of that stigma. There should be no fear as there’s no difficulty talking about physical health without fear of condemnation or persecution and they should be able to speak about mental health.”
PIPS offers one-to-one counselling and volunteers are trained in suicide prevention. on Christmas Day, boxing day and New Year’s day its phone lines will automatically switch to Lifeline counselling service.
Peter concluded: “You’re not alone, there is help out there, don’t be afraid to seek that help. I wish everyone who has supported PIPS Larne a merry Christmas and peaceful New Year.”