Belfast Telegraph

Parents bereaved by suicide find solace in Sports Relief project

BY JOANNE SWEENEY

Parents whose children have taken their own lives are being supported in the aftermath by an art therapy programme – with the help of a Sport Relief grant.

The act of making Christmas tree stars with their loved ones names on them, or simply sharing a tear as they make a mosaic, is helping deep wounds heal.

Suicide prevention charity PIPS has been running a weekly programme for 10 bereaved parents with the help of a Sport Relief Community Cash grant.

The Belfast Telegraph has teamed up with Sport Relief to help distribute a £50,000 cash fund for community groups and organisations throughout Northern Ireland who "help people living tough lives."

Gerard McCartan (47) from west Belfast believes that the art programme has made a real difference to him and the other grieving parents from the area.

His only son Danny took his own life in April 2005. The young man, who had self-harmed in the past, had asked for help on the day he died.

"We are never going to find out the exact reason why my son took his life; it was a horrendous time for us," said Mr McCartan. "We never thought Danny would have done that. It was a terrible, terrible time for us, my wife Carol and his sister Caroline."

More than two years after Danny died, an independent inquiry was held to find out why he was failed, with the result that policies were improved and the family received a public apology. Mr McCartan and his wife subsequently took part in the art therapy programme which started last October.

The group worked on handmade stars with their loved ones names on them for the charity's Christmas Tree of Lights, made a blanket for the family room and are now working on a large mosaic.

"The main thing about the art therapy is that some people have never mentioned their loved ones and had never talked about it," said Mr McCartan. He added that his hope was that PIPS would reapply for another Sport Relief grant so the therapy could continue.

Meanwhile, although his family will never forget Danny, he said they had found some joy with the arrival of a young grandson.

GET ACTIVE TO RAISE MONEY

Feeling sporty? Sign up to run, swim or cycle for this year's Sainsbury's Sport Relief Games on Sunday, March 23.

The money raised will help transform lives here, throughout the UK and across the world's poorest countries.

The Belfast Telegraph has teamed up with Sport Relief to highlight the £50,000 Sport Relief Community Cash fund available to your community. Grants of £500-£1,000 are available to small organisations in Northern Ireland that are doing great work to help people living tough lives.To apply go to: www.communityfoundationni.org

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