Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

By Diarmúid Pepper
This Friday 24th May, the message from Newry-based suicide prevention charity PIPS is: “Whether you are at work, school or play, having an Odd Sock Day is ok!”

PIPS Hope and Support (Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-Harm) is encouraging everyone to have an odd sock day and to make a donation to the organisation via their various platforms.
The Examiner spoke to the charity about a wide range of issues in anticipation of their “Odd Sock Day” fundraiser.
When asked about their latest fundraiser, a PIPS spokesperson said: “Odd Sock Day came about a few years ago through an initiative from our fundraising department. The aim of the initiative is to raise awareness that ‘it’s OK to have an odd day’, regardless of age, profession, etc. This is a fun initiative and can be done at home, work, school or play by taking a photo and highlighting it through social media and via a small donation made to charity.”

PIPS Hope & Support is an independent charity, which was formed in 2003 following the death of Séamas McCabe, the son of the charity’s CEO.  Séamus was a 20 year old student from Bessbrook, and his death had a ripple effect on his family, friends, and the community at large.
Over time, the charity’s focus has evolved and they are well known for the compassionate assistance they offer to those in crisis. In 2017, the charity rebranded to PIPS Hope & Support Limited (PIPS H&S), and offers survivors a forum through which they can share their feelings and experiences.
When asked about their mission statement, PIPS H&S said: “The goal of PIPS Hope & Support is to keep the conversation going on suicide prevention, and lead the way in taking action, so that the curve begins to bend in this tragic health problem that we face as a community.
“One suicide is too many. By pulling together to raise awareness, increase knowledge and education, and intervene early in connecting individuals and families with resources prior to a crisis, we can all start making a difference in the number of suicides impacting the youth and adults in our community.”

The charity has been going from strength to strength, and now has a strong team which includes 14 accredited sessional counsellors and 9 professional trainers.
In addition to this, PIPS H&S also trains volunteers to provide assistance to anyone impacted by suicide and self-harm. The volunteers help staff carry out home-visits to affected households within the local Newry, Mourne and Down community.
The work that PIPS H&S do is wide and varied. The charity said to The Examiner: “Short-term focused counselling is offered to young people and adults who have been bereaved by someone’s suicide or who feel in crisis themselves or may be dealing with emotional or mental distress.”
But the charity also focuses on long-term goals and delivers a range of health approved and education accredited training programmes and workshops such as: Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), SafeTALK Training, B Positive, Suicide TALK, and the Shoulder to Shoulder Suicide prevention training.
In addition to this, PIPS H&S supports suicide bereaved families, and operates a Suicide Bereavement Support Group for anyone who has experienced the loss of someone through suicide.
Suicide is an acutely sensitive issue in the local area, given that Northern Ireland has the highest suicide rate in the U.K.
 In 2017, 305 deaths by suicide were registered in Northern Ireland. Indeed, there is research which suggests that Northern Ireland’s violent past could contribute to these figures, due to a large percentage of the “Troubles” generation being left traumatised by the violence.
However, the charity stresses: “We must understand that there is rarely one single reason behind why someone takes their life. It most often is a combination of issues.”

We asked a representative from PIPS H&S if there were any tell-tale signs that one ought to be on the lookout for when it comes to suicide.  
As the charity have already said, suicide often occurs as a result of a combination of issues, but despite this, there are a number of indicators that a person may be in acute danger and urgently need help.
Examples which PIPS H&S gave to us include: talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose; talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain; talking about being a burden to others; increasing the use of alcohol or drugs; acting anxious, agitated, or reckless; sleeping too little or too much; withdrawing or feeling isolated; showing rage or talking about seeking revenge; and displaying extreme mood swings.

After listing some actions which are often tell-tale signals, the charity pleaded: “If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the Lifeline number on: 0808 808 800. This is the regional 24/7 crisis number.
“For local crisis support call PIPS Hope & Support on: 028 3026 6195 or email:”
When asked about ways in which people can help the charity beyond the Odd Socks Day, PIPS H&S said: “There are always ways in which members of the community can support the organisation. Volunteering is one way, and we constantly look for new volunteers who can bring something new to the organisation in helping us to achieve our overall aim.
“We also look for individuals who can assist us with street collections and bag packs which contribute majorly to the running costs of the organisation.  Sharing our posts on social media is another way people can support; the more individuals we are able to target, the more support individuals can access.”