A  Belfast man who lost his 17-year-old son to suicide has embarked on a new programme that aims to equip all schools in the north with training on suicide prevention and battling depression.

Philip McTaggart, who launched a personal crusade to battle the stigma preventing discussion of suicide shortly after the death of his son Philip in 2003, recently took a step back from his role as co-founder of PIPS (Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self harm). He has since formed Mindskills, a not-for-profit company aimed at reaching out and providing intervention and prevention skills.

The company aims to deliver positive mental health training at a grassroots level and to that end it has embarked on a venture with IT giant Allstate to deliver suicide information programmes to secondary school children from the age of 16 and up.

Philip spent his son’s recent anniversary with students at St Dominic’s Grammar School on the Falls Road, where he told Daily Belfast a difficult week had only spurred on his passion to encourage the fulfilment of life.

“We know that throughout this island the suicide rate continues to increase, we also know that in the report ‘Why Children Die’ it states very clearly that suicide in deprived areas has trebled,” he said. “The idea of this programme we are delivering through Mindskills and through Allstate is to give young people skills where they are able to deal with the pressures of life, motivate them, build up their confidence and install a sense of belief.

“When Philip died there wasn’t even a strategy available for parents or anyone dealing with suicide. People were left to deal with the situation on their own and there was still a lot of stigma around suicide. I believe that today there is more help and support available than ever before and I do believe that through the work and training we are doing we are helping to break down barriers and stigma.”

Vice Principal of St Dominic’s, Phyllis McNulty, said that both students and teachers had found the training both positive and enjoyable.

“Philip was very reassuring and he brought a positive outlook on the promotion of positive mental health rather than a negative one, which we found important in a school context,” she said.

Anyone interested in learning out more about Mindskills can follow the Facebook page Mindskillstraining or contact Philip McTaggart on 07732350325.