Ballymena Samaritans – whose area of coverage includes East Antrim and the Glens – recently raised £1,300 with a fire walk.
The sponsored event, organised with help from Rathkenny Track and Enduro Bikesport, featured volunteers from a number of Samaritans’ branches.
With money still coming in from sponsorship the total is likely to increase. Anyone who would like to contribute can either send a donation made out to “Samaritans Ballymena” marked “Firewalk” to the branch in 45 Mount Street, Ballymena BT43 6BP or by visiting the Samaritans of Ballymena virgin money giving site.
Margaret Black, director, of Ballymena Samaritans, said “Samaritans volunteers, no matter which branch they are from, understand how difficult it is to talk about your feelings. What a struggle it can be to open up. Each volunteer is given comprehensive training before they start taking calls. As volunteers with Samaritans, we hope that anyone in distress or who may be finding it hard to cope will reach out to talk to someone before things get too much.
“We don’t offer advice but we will give you the time and space that you need to work through all your options.”
During a recession people who already have mental health problems find their economic and social position gets worse. The danger is that economic hardship can intensify the social exclusion of vulnerable people, such as those with mental health problems. Margaret explained: “Specifically, redundancy is known to trigger depression and suicidal thoughts, as is the case with debt.”
She added: “Losing your job is a sudden change and there can also be financial implications through loss of income, which in itself can cause anxiety. Samaritans would urge anybody struggling with their mental health issues to seek support.”
In a young person the symptoms of depression are so similar to the natural teenage behaviour it is easy to miss them. Staying in their bedrooms to play music is normal, hiding in the bedroom because they cannot face the world is not but how to tell the difference?
Mood swings are normal, teenage hormones bouncing around are difficult enough to deal with but add peer pressure to that and maybe a dislike of their own appearance and some young people just cannot cope. Lack of concentration is another symptom, sleeping too much or not enough, does this not sound typical of a normal teenager as well?
Margaret urged: “The only way to know if someone is feeling suicidal is to ask them. If someone you know is talking about feeling depressed, or if even in a joking way they mention having had enough, follow it up. Ask if it is so bad for them that they do not want to live. You will not be putting the idea into their head. If it is not an option they have considered they will say no.
“There is a perception that contacting Samaritans is the last port of call. People we speak to can be suicidal but a larger number are simply stressed, isolated or depressed.”
Samaritans can be contacted on 08457 90 90 90 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org a trained volunteer will listen. Alternatively anyone can drop in to the local branch at 45 Mount Street, Ballymena to have a face to face meeting. To find out the branch opening hours please visit the website www.samaritans.org