Children as young as five are receiving help for suicidal thoughts, the founder of a new counselling service has revealed.
Teach Tom, a community initiative in Kilkenny, was established less than two months ago to provide immediate support to individuals and families either affected by or contemplating suicide.
The voluntary group — which works in conjunction with Taxi Watch, a local suicide surveillance system run by cab drivers — said it had been shocked by the number of young children referred to it since the service opened in mid-February.
Angela Hayes, the charity’s founder, said: “We’ve had children as young as five or six using the service, up to 16-year-olds. The parents just can’t manage. They don’t know what’s going on with their children. It would take up to a year to see a professional psychologist through the system, so we can provide free and immediate care.”
In an interview on TV3’s Sunday AM, Angela, a mother of four, reflected on her own experience of suicide, losing both her husband Tom and son Thomas, 19, in recent years.
Many of the people she helps at Teac Tom are referred to her by Taxi Watch, a suicide surveillance service set up in November 2014 in Kilkenny, which has since been rolled out in other towns and cities.
Derek Devoy, 40, who founded the service after suffering a long bout of depression, said he believes at least 92 lives have been saved through the initiative, which has the backing of 16 taxi drivers in Kilkenny alone.
Reflecting on his own experience of depression following surgery after a car accident a number of years ago, he said: “I wasn’t able to leave my bedroom for eight months. I hid it from everyone, including my wife. I used to get dressed for work and dress the kids for school, but once the kids had gone I’d take my clothes off and get back in bed for the day. I’d get up at 5.50pm before my wife came home and pretend everything was OK, but of course it wasn’t.”
Derek said a decision he made to visit his GP, after which he received counselling, saved his life — and encouraged him to set up Taxi Watch, for which he received specialist training from the HSE. He and his colleagues now routinely patrol risk areas in Kilkenny.
He added: “There are certain spots we know and we know what to do.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved