Two Belfast teenagers are at the centre of a new bid to cut the city’s suicide rates from 150 a year, it emerged today.
Caitlín Ní Cathail and Paul McCann have become the youngest team ever to be trained in internationally renowned techniques to recognise the symptoms before it’s too late.
The pair attended a conference in Newfoundland, Canada, to partake in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST).
The initiative, developed over 23 years, involves a first-aid process to detect any warning signs and intervene.
Mr McCann, 19, a student from west Belfast’s Lower Falls, said: “It’s to help recognise the basic concept of suicide and symptoms such as stress and giving away possessions and act on them.
“We see ourselves as care workers trying to pull people out of the river of suicide.”
Mr McCann and Ms Ní Cathail, both 18, from Ballymurphy, west Belfast, work with Belfast City Council’s Youth Forum, where they are teaching colleagues about what can be done to protect those at risk.
They are also planning to run a course for staff working in the community and team up with the Samaritans to put on a play at City Hall in December to raise awareness of the difficulties facing some of the most vulnerable at Christmas.
“We would like as many people as possible to come along,” said Mr McCann.
“Suicide is something people find hard to talk about, but we need to start looking closely at what we can do to intervene before it happens.”
He added: “The Youth Forum has identified suicide as a major area of concern and has drawn up a strategy to help tackle it.
“We aim to raise awareness among as many people as possible, highlighting the effects suicide has on our community.
“There is often a great stigma or taboo around suicide which may prevent people reaching out for help.
“However, they often give involuntary signals that they are thinking about it and if we can pick these up we can apply first aid until the necessary help is forthcoming. In this way ASIST is proven to work and it helps save lives.”