'We lost our daughter to suicide at 15, now we are helping others'
The life-saving work of a Co Tyrone suicide prevention charity is being highlighted to mark International Women's Day today.
One very inspiring woman having a hugely positive impact on the lives of others is Catherine McKee from Clonmore, Dungannon, who set up the Niamh Louise Foundation with her husband James on February 2, 2006, on what would have been their daughter's 16th birthday.
Sadly Niamh died by suicide in November 2005 when she was just 15. Since her death hundreds of people aged from as young as 11 to over 65 have been helped by the charity set up in her name.
The Belfast Telegraph recently teamed up with Sport Relief to help distribute a £50,000 community cash fund to organisations just like the Niamh Louise Foundation. It received £30,000 from Sport Relief to fund it's work over a two-year period – tackling three areas associated with suicide: prevention through raising awareness, intervention for those at high risk of self-harm, and postvention to help families and friends cope with their loss.
Catherine (46) explained how vital that funding has been.
"It was an absolute Godsend," she said. "It has helped save lives. It has helped the youth focus and deal with thoughts of suicide and self harm.
"As a result of the money we received from Comic Relief we were able to produce literature and it also provided premises in Killybrackey for youths to come and drop in.
"It's all about encouraging them to take as much help as possible and recover.
"We are very proud of our group and the help we have received."
The Niamh Louise Foundation runs a drop-in centre where all members of the community can get support if they have suicidal feelings. It also raises awareness of suicide prevention and offers bereavement counselling to families affected by suicide.
Catherine told the Belfast Telegraph people should not be afraid to talk about suicidal feelings and she had this message for anyone in crisis.
"You can recover," she said. "It's too hard to go through on your own. There is help out there. It is okay to talk and ask for help.
"Access the help and give yourself the chance to recover."
If you have been affected by suicide, or would like to speak to someone about the issue, a number of agencies can provide assistance. Contact your GP or call the Samaritans' 24-hour helpline on 028 9066 4422 or the Free Life-line 24-hour helpline on 080 8808 800.