The ISPCC has launched a special helpline in the wake of the death of an 11-year-old schoolboy by suspected suicide in Cork City.
The children’s charity said its counsellors have been briefed on the situation and are ready to take calls from any child who may have been affected by the weekend tragedy.
As well as its national helpline, 1800 666 666, the dedicated 1800 400 100 helpline for Cork calls will be operational until January 1. The funeral for the schoolboy takes place today.
Separately, the Cork Samaritans plans to recruit more volunteers to boost its services next year as it emerged it dealt with almost 68,000 calls in the past year.
The 67,916 calls represents more than 10% of the 639,652 calls fielded by Samaritans nationally between 2015 and 2016, with demand for their listening service highest between the loneliest hours of 10pm to 2am.
The figures from the 2015-2016 Impact Report covering Samaritans’ work in Ireland shows that more than one in three calls to its national helpline were received between 6pm and 12am, with 63% of the calls to the service made between 6pm and 6am.
Aileen Spitere, director of the Cork branch, said while calls come in from people about financial troubles, it is not the main reason for the majority of calls.
“Loneliness, isolation, break-ups, loss — anything that can cause grief,” she said, regarding the calls being made to the Cork office.
“I was on duty last night between 11.30pm and 3.30am and the phone didn’t stop ringing.”
Technically the Cork office can field calls from anywhere in the country but in reality, the calls tend to begin within the local catchment area, with the local figures broadly in line with the national statistics.
Ms Spitere said in many cases people simply wanted to reach out to someone. A small minority of calls may require a referral to another service. The Cork service operates 24-hours a day but Ms Spitere said: “We could do so much more if we had more volunteers.”
Nationally, demand for the Samaritans’ service has increased since the launch of its new free-to-call number in 2014, with the number of ‘listening hours’ provided up by 38% since then.
“Samaritans are the only organisation whose volunteers are available round-the-clock, providing a beacon of light to those struggling during the loneliest hours,” she said.
Meanwhile, volunteers from the Cork Samaritans will be on the Grand Parade in Cork at 8pm tonight for a candlelight ceremony to mark the shortest day of the year, and to highlight its round-the-clock service.
The ceremony, which will feature guest speakers and a performance by the Cork High Hopes Choir, will also remember all those who died by, or who were affected by suicide in 2016.
“People who are struggling often feel isolated and alone. They may want to talk about their suicidal feelings but don’t know where to turn, or fear that they may be judged,” Ms Spitere said. “Over 450 people in Ireland take their lives each year. Many of those people may feel like they don’t have anywhere to seek support.”
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