Support centre bids to cut Belfast suicides

Dozens of lives could be saved with the opening of a new support centre in a suicide blackspot, a victim’s father claimed today.

Dozens of lives could be saved with the opening of a new support centre in a suicide blackspot, a victim’s father claimed today.

As Pips House in north Belfast began offering advice to bereaved families and relatives of self-harmers, Philip McTaggart said there was an urgent need to talk through the issues affecting so many.

The Ardoyne man, whose 17-year-old son Philip Jr took his own life in April 2003, said four people have committed suicide in north Belfast this year.

But he insisted: “I myself have dealt with over 15 families, giving them advice and directing them to the proper professional services.

“I believe our group have saved lives without a doubt and the potential (with this centre) is to save a lot more.”

Mr McTaggart chairs the Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self Harm (PIPS), which is heavily involved in all-Ireland intervention work.

The project, with an acronym in memory of his son’s nickname Pip, is attempting to create a haven at its new Duncairn Gardens premises for those struggling with mental anguish.

Community, voluntary and statutory agencies have all worked on the initiative, which offers ground-floor drug and alcohol advice facilities and first-floor counselling.

Visitors will be able to take part in a number of classes including art and family support as well as accessing complementary therapy by Ashton Stress Centre practitioners.

The house will also be a base for the setting up of a number of neighbourhood response teams in north Belfast.

“It will be of great benefit to the people of Belfast and is a resource that has not been available in the past,” Mr McTaggart insisted.

“We hope to create awareness and break down barriers to the issue of suicide and self harm and hopefully save lives in the process.”

Among those at the launch was Frank Campbell, executive director of the Baton Rouge Crisis and Intervention Centre in Louisiana, USA, which offers prevention and intervention services that both provide support in times of crisis and reduce the impact of suicide in the community.

He was one of the team of people that trained some of the PIPS volunteers to deliver the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST).

A number of families shared their personal experiences, including Gerard McCartan from north Belfast who lost his son Danny to suicide last year.

Representatives of the North and West Belfast Health and Social Services Trust also attended the event.

Jo Murphy of the North Belfast Partnership Board’s Health and Social Well-being Forum, who is also a founder member of the PIPS Project, said she was delighted with the new facility.

“Dozens of people have given up their time to help us get here,” she said.

“Three years on, our vision has become a reality. True partnership working really does pay off, as the opening of the PIPS house proves.”

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