Northern Ireland news

New 'life-saving' counselling service will help children as young as four

Belfast Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl at the launch of a new counselling service for children at PIPS Suicide Prevention Ireland on the Antrim Road in north Belfast. Also pictured are Renée Quinn, Executive Director of PIPS, and Suzi Button from Lorna Byrne Children's Foundation. Picture by Mal McCann

A NEW counselling service for children as young as four will provide "life-saving work".

The specialist service has been launched by PIPS Suicide Prevention Ireland after it received €30,000 from the Lorna Byrne Children's Foundation.

It aims to help children aged four to 18 who self-harm or who are suffering from suicidal ideation, anxiety or depression.

It will also offer support to children experiencing emotional issues including anxiety, bullying, relationships, eating disorders, substance misuse and grief.

Children who want to use the service do not need a GP or hospital referral letter.

People in Northern Ireland experience 20-25 per cent higher levels of mental health illness compared to the rest of the UK and have the highest rate of suicide, PIPS said.

The service will offer a 12-week programme of talking therapies, art therapy and complementary therapies.

Renée Quinn, Executive Director of PIPS, said the charity had seen an increase in the number of children using its services this year.

"Parents or individuals can refer their child or themselves for our services," she said.

"We are here to help young people heal and grow into their fullest potential."

Lorna Byrne, whose foundation supports vulnerable children around the world, said suicide remains a serious issue in the north.

"At every single one of my events in Northern Ireland over the last number of years the topic of suicide has been raised by family members, community leaders and even by people contemplating taking their own life," she said.

"I hope for a day when no one's life is touched by suicide, but until that time comes, we need essential services like PIPS Suicide Prevention Ireland.

"I am delighted to be able to support such life-saving work with PIPS and our first project in Northern Ireland."

Belfast Lord Mayor, councillor Kate Nicholl said too many families across the city had been devastated by the tragedy of suicide.

"We owe it to our young people and their families to be there for them, to listen, to help them work through the challenges that life has thrown at them."

PIPS offers a ‘no appointment needed' service. Its child and youth counsellors are available between 9am – 9pm Monday to Friday and 10am - 6pm Saturday and Sundays, (including school holidays and excluding bank holidays).

To contact PIPS telephone 028 9080 5850 or Freephone 0800 088 6042, email info@pipscharity.com, or call into 279 Antrim Road, Belfast.

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Northern Ireland news