Northern Ireland

Community bewildered by rise of suicides among young

Attending the funerals of seven friends in five months seems too terrible to imagine, but that's what a group of young people in Poleglass have had to do.

Since May, seven teenage boys and girls have taken their own lives leaving their families, friends and the wider community shocked and bewildered.

One of their friends, Helen Elliott, says the deaths of so many people in such tragic circumstances is very hard to deal with.

"It's a big, big shock. It's hard now that you can't see them and it hasn't hit most people yet," she said.

The question everyone in the community is asking is why - why young people think of taking their own lives as an option and why they do not seek help before it's too late.

Their friends think there are all sorts of reasons - and drugs could be one of them.

Helen said: "People are getting into debt and they're taking drugs and it's messing with their minds and they're thinking killing themselves is the only way to get away from it."

Feeling suicidal

New Line Counselling is based in north Belfast. In 2009 they counselled 3,800 people for all sorts of problems.

Of that number several hundred said they were feeling suicidal.

New Line's chief executive, Karen Collins-Neill, said : "No sooner have they lost one friend and then another and another.

"Certainly, they've commented on the number of funerals they've attended in a short space of time and the impact that has on them.

"Again it starts to generate the idea that there are so many people within their community have chosen suicide and what we want to do is dissuade them from that and present them with alternatives and offer help and support."

Christopher Scott is one of those left behind.

He has lost two cousins through suicide and now wants to petition Stormont for better counselling services where he lives.

"I think every school should have a counsellor and not just on a Monday. And people should be told there is a counsellor available," Christopher said.

"There's one in my school and I didn't know about it."

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