Charity counselling service inundated with calls after Cookstown tragedy
A CHARITY providing trauma counselling has been inundated with calls from "shocked" teenagers caught up in the Cookstown hotel tragedy.
The JMC Counselling and Training & The Mid-Ulster Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy service provided face-to-face support to scores of young people who witnessed the horrific events of the previous evening in which three teenagers were killed.
Distressed workers from the Greenvale Hotel also contacted the charity, which is staffed by a team of 30 people with offices in Coalisland, Co Tyrone.
Counsellor Michael O'Neill said it was impossible to estimate the number of telephone calls and social media messages they received as they had been "flat out", with extra staff coming in to work the public holiday.
Parents of teenagers who attended the St Patrick's Day disco also sought advice.
GAA clubs including Dungannon and Tullysaran in Co Armagh contacted the counselling service to provide their premises as a 'drop in'.
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While we cannot go into the details of what we have been told, all the young people who approached us have been in complete shock," Mr O'Neill said.
"These were teenagers who were all going out to have a night's fun and are now dealing with grief and trauma."
Mr O'Neill urged concerned parents to communicate with their children who had been affected.
"Please don't let children be on their own - the most important thing is talking. I know it is impossible to keep young people off social media but try to limit what they are reading online," he added.
"Parents know their own kids but it is good to encourage them not to be afraid to speak about their experience and to seek advice of counsellors and GPs if needs be.
"We also know that staff members who were working at the hotel were badly affected and some got in touch with us yesterday - they need help too... If you have been affected, please don't suffer this alone, contact us as soon as possible."
The Mid-Ulster based counselling service can be contacted on 028 8774 6375.
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Meanwhile, an emergency meeting will take place this morning among health professionals at the Northern Health Trust, which is responsible for the Cookstown area.
Representatives from the trust's psychological services, children's and community services will meet to confirm what type of specialist care they can provide in response to those directly affected by the tragedy.
A trust spokesman urged those who required immediate support to contact their GP.
The Public Health Agency also urged anyone in distress to telephone its 24-hour crisis helpline, Lifeline on 0808 808 8000
People looking for an accredited counsellor can contact the National Counselling Society on www.nationalcounsellingsociety.org or 01903 200666