Belfast Telegraph

Young at breaking point as record numbers referred for mental health counselling

By Donna Deeney

An unprecedented number of young people in Londonderry with mental health problems —many of whom are suicidal — are being referred to a support organisation for counselling.

STEER — Support Training Education Employment Research — works with people aged between 16 and 25 who have been diagnosed with mental health difficulties. But its chief executive said the effects of the recession and lack of job opportunities has increased the demand for its services like never before.

Gerrard Finnegan told the North West Telegraph that a recent grant from the Big Lottery Fund for £10,000 allowed the group to offer a free counselling service to the young people.

He said: “We are seeing a number of young people being referred to us suffering from depression, suicidal feelings, anxiety and low self-esteem so any funding that allows us to provide support is more than welcome.

“Unfortunately there are many young people who have a sense of hopelessness.

“But we have found that by

even getting them interested in active citizenship can make a difference. So we encourage them to do voluntary work within their own communities, and when they come to us they can meet with others their own age who have been in a similar position, but after taking part in the programmes their mental health improved.

“Suicide is an ever increasing problem, especially among young men. In any city such as Derry with a river the figures appear to be greater, but it is always difficult to quantify the real number of suicides as some deaths which appear on the surface to have been caused accidentally may in fact be suicide.

“This is why all our staff, regardless of their qualifications are given specialist training in suicide awareness so they can identify people who have come to us who are at risk of suicide even though they may not tell us they are feeling this way.”

Have Your Tomorrow's (HURT), which supports people in the North West dealing with drug and alcohol issues and their families, has also been awarded £5,000 to provide a residential training programme for staff, committee members and volunteers.

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