Northern Ireland left stunned as two young children take own lives
Suicide counselling services in Belfast have been extended after two young children took their own lives.
The unconnected deaths of Ciara Doherty, 11, from the Mount Eagles estate, and 13-year-old Martin Rooney, from nearby Twinbrook, are the latest in a worrying spate of young suicides in the area.
Martin, a talented footballer who captained his local team Glendowan FC, was laid to rest by his devastated family today after a funeral service at St Luke's Parish church.
He died in the Royal Victoria Hospital on Thursday, while Ciara was found dead at her home on Friday night.
Fears of further tragedies prompted an emergency meeting of health and education officials, community representatives, police and politicians.
Plans have now been made to provide additional support to young people in the coming week, targeting schools and other youth settings.
Mental health experts are putting more resources into the Colin district and across west Belfast while social networking sites will be used to engage with children.
Annie Armstrong, from the Colin Neighbourhood Partnership and co-chair of the Colin Task Group said a wide range of help and support services were on offer.
"This is a sad time for the Colin community and we would like to offer our condolences to those affected by the recent loss of life and want to reassure everyone that there is help and support available," she said.
"It is vital that relatives are given the privacy, time and space they deserve at this very difficult time as they are coming to terms with what has happened.
Ms Armstrong added: "I would encourage anyone who is in despair or crisis themselves or who may have concerns about a son, daughter or friend to avail of the help that is available."
Kevin Bailey, South Eastern Trust Suicide Prevention Co-ordinator and joint chair of the Task Group said: "I would appeal to anyone who needs to talk to someone to access this support service. Trained professionals are available to provide advice, emotional support or just a listening ear. Our aim is to ensure that help is available where it is needed.
"Many families that have been bereaved by suicide will undoubtedly feel this distress as they remember their loved ones at this time. Others may also be struggling with their own thoughts of suicide. If you are one of these family members or an individual struggling with suicide please know that support and advice is available."
The Lifeline counselling service is available 24/7 on 0808 808 8000 or by accessing the website www.lifelinehelpline.info.
The Colin Neighbourhood Office at the Dairy Farm Centre will remain open each evening until 8pm this week for anyone needing advice, help or support.