Northern Ireland news

Family of Co Antrim mother raise £10,000 to help tackle suicide and mental health in rural communities

The family of Cushendall woman Lisa McAlister have donated £10,000 in her memory to local mental health charity Extern. Picture by Kevin McAuley

THE family of a young Co Antrim mother have raised £10,000 to help tackle suicide and mental health in isolated or rural communities.

Lisa McAlister (30), who lived in Cushendall, died by suicide at her home in July 2020.

The mother-of-two had been passionate about supporting the work of mental health charities and her family last night said they hoped that the donation in her memory will enable others to access potentially life-saving services.

Described as someone who had a "kindness like you have never experienced", she had been fundraising for mental health awareness after struggling with her own mental health.

At the time, she was planning a run, walk, cycle challenge between Cushendall and Carnlough in a bid to raise some much-needed funds for mental health support charities.

Co Antrim woman Lisa McAlister (30) died in 2020

However, following delays associated with the Covid1-9 pandemic, she passed away before the fundraiser could take place.

But her family have continued the fundraising efforts and recently donated £10,000 to local mental health charity Extern. The funds will be used to provide new support to tackle suicide and poor mental health among people living in the Cushendall and wider Glens area.

These include a number of awareness-raising events to introduce the community to new therapeutic services, as well as developing volunteer 'Community Champions' in the area, who will draw on their local knowledge, skills and life experiences to promote health and wellbeing.

It comes after a recent survey by the Samaritans found people living in rural areas in Northern Ireland (47 per cent) are less likely than those in urban areas (70 per cent) to reach out for support or talk to someone if they are struggling with their mental health.

Ms McAllister's brother Mark said: "The Glens area has been cut off from vital mental health services for far too long.

"Lisa set out to change this and despite falling victim to poor mental health, today is a huge step forward in achieving her goal.

"We hope that with the help of Extern, Lisa's legacy will have a lasting impact in the Glens of Antrim."

Billy Murphy from Extern said: "As one of the leading mental health charities across Northern Ireland, we in Extern know only too well the profound impact which poor mental health and suicide can have on families and communities.

"The courage and resolve which the McAlister family have shown following the tragic loss of Lisa has been inspirational, and their incredible donation will help us to make a real difference to others who may be facing such challenges in their lives."

:: Anyone in distress can contact the Samaritans on 116123 or Lifeline on 080 8808 8000.

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