Belfast Telegraph

MLA hooks up with suicide support and prevention service

North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness has hooked up with Lifeline, the 24/7 crisis service for people in distress or despair.

Lifeline provides support and immediate access to expert counselling and was set up under the Assembly’s suicide prevention strategy, Protect Life.

It is funded by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and is available on 0808 808 8000, day and night.

The staff are trained counsellors experienced in dealing with a wide range of emotional distress, including suicidal feelings, self-harm, abuse, trauma, depression and anxiety.

Mr Maginness met some of the counsellors during a visit.

Afterwards he said: “I am all too aware that for many people emotional stress and feelings of despair can be overwhelming.

“Suicide prevention is everyone's business. We share responsibility to ensure people in need are encouraged to seek support through Lifeline.”

He said the Lifeline operation was “very impressive”.

“These are serious people dealing with very serious enquiries by people who are obviously quite distressed and involved in a very personal crisis whether emotional or social or mental.

“There is clearly a very big need in the community, particularly among young people because they are more vulnerable than mature adults. These counsellors really deal with them in a most professional and sustained fashion.”

Norma Patterson, corporate director of Contact Youth Counselling, which runs Lifeline on behalf of the Department of Health, said: “Lifeline works around the clock supporting people in distress and we very much welcome MLA support.

“Remember, you do not have to be alone in a crisis. Lifeline's role is to carefully assess, support and refer crisis callers, working closely with statutory and community crisis response providers to ensure appropriate support services are made available immediately.”

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said: “Suicide is an extremely complex issue that requires a co-ordinated response from all sections of society.

“I established Lifeline to be at the forefront of this response, working in partnership with statutory services and local community-based suicide prevention groups. Lifeline is there for anyone who needs support.”

Calls to Lifeline are free from all landlines and mobile phones. The website address is: www.lifelinehelpline.info

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