Calls to suicide and self-harm charity double in the last year

Members of PIPS Upper Bann, from left, Malachy Toman, Anne Nugent and Barbara and Gareth Scott. The group is holding its 'Strictly Dancing' fundraising event this weekend and Slimming World, of which Barbara and Gareth are members, also  recently made a cash donation to the charity. INLM2515-430
Members of PIPS Upper Bann, from left, Malachy Toman, Anne Nugent and Barbara and Gareth Scott. The group is holding its 'Strictly Dancing' fundraising event this weekend and Slimming World, of which Barbara and Gareth are members, also recently made a cash donation to the charity. INLM2515-430

The number of calls to a local suicide and self-harm charity has doubled in the past year, with social media problems on the rise, it has been revealed.

Jackie McCrum, a counsellor for PIPS Upper Bann, said demand for the group’s services has increased significantly since its formation eight years ago, with social media problems, such as cyberbullying, becoming much more prevalent.

Said Jackie, “I worked as a school counsellor and 15 years ago social media just wasn’t an issue.

“Now, PIPS goes into local schools to talk to pupils and it is a real problem.”

The issue has been high on the agenda in recent weeks following the tragic death of Co Tyrone teenager, Ronan Hughes, who took his own life after apparently being blackmailed online.

Jackie, who is based at the group’s office in Mount Zion House, Lurgan, also revealed that 80 per cent of its callers are men of all ages, adding: “When we go out to visit homes of the bereaved, an awful lot of the time, they are men.”

Just last weekend, Jackie took two calls - one from a caller who was suicidal and the other related to self-harm: “One of the callers had to go to A&E. We see callers within 24 to 48 hours. There are no long waits, which is one of the great advantages of PIPS.”

PIPS Upper Bann runs a number of support groups and counselling services and is almost totally reliant on the public’s support for funding, with around £30,000 needed per annum.

This weekend, it is holding ‘Strictly Dancing’, one of its main, annual fundraising events. A number of the contestants have been personally affected by suicide and, according to Jackie, this is their way of “giving back” to the charity.

Jackie added: “The public are fantastic. I think it helps that we are a local group and, as people get to know more about us, the greater the demand is for our services.”