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PIPS families provide helping hand to each other

A HELPING HAND: Patricia Perry and Anne McKenna from PIPS Family Group talk about how interacting with women who have shared experiences helps them cope A HELPING HAND: Patricia Perry and Anne McKenna from PIPS Family Group talk about how interacting with women who have shared experiences helps them cope
By Conor McParland

NORTH Belfast suicide prevention charity PIPS has been to the forefront over the years in providing support to individuals who are considering or who have at some point considered ending their own lives.
PIPS also provide support to families and friends who have been touched by suicide, with their family group the driving force behind such support.
PIPS Family Group Meeting takes place every Wednesday night from 7pm to 9pm in Tesco at Cityside.
The group is currently made up of seven members, all women who have lost a family relative to suicide.
Two such members are Patricia Perry, who lost her son John (34) in 2007, and Anne McKenna, who lost her son Brogue (13) in 2013.
Patricia explained how she involved in the group.
“My son died 12 years ago. PIPS came to the house for the wake and I got talking to them,” she said.
“They offered me the chance to come for some therapy sessions and to get involved in the family group. I went and thought at the time it was all too much. It just wasn’t for me.
“A few years later I thought about it and went back. I met the other members and we have been best friends ever since.
“The thing is we know exactly how each other feels. You can’t explain it to anyone else how it feels to lose a child.
“There is one woman in the group who lost three sons and another who has lost two.”
Anne joined the group six years ago when her son Brogue died.
“For me, the group provides great friendship for me and I enjoy coming every week,” she explained.
“When it is my son’s birthday or the anniversary of his death, sometimes I don’t feel like leaving the house but I would never miss a group meeting on a Wednesday night.
“Really, without this group I don’t think I would be doing as well as I am today.
“Every week, I look forward to a Wednesday night to come along and meet with people I now class as my friends.”
As well as exchanging their own personal stories of heartbreak and loss, PIPS Family Group is much more than sharing their loss.
Every year, members save up to fund a four-day holiday abroad with previous destinations including Amsterdam, Malta and Portugal. They also have regular days out, shopping trips and an annual Christmas dinner.
“I think the social aspect of the group is very important,” added Patricia. It is not all miserable and we all enjoy our holidays and day trips to just get away from it all. We have all become really good friends.
“We work closely with New Lodge Arts doing things like arts and crafts and doing social things with them really gives us all a bit of a lift.
“Losing a loved one is different for each person. I understand the group might not be for everyone.
“We all just sit and chat. We can talk openly about our loved ones we have lost and it helps us remember the good and happy times.”
Due to renovation work at PIPS Antrim Road offices, the family group recently got good news of a room available in Tesco in Cityside, Yorkgate, where their weekly meetings will be held for the foreseeable future.
Despite the success of the group, Patricia would like to see a similar group set up for men so that men can talk to each other about the subject.
“The suicide rate in North Belfast is terrible. It is an epidemic,” she said.
“We badly need a similar group like ourselves, but for men so that they can too talk to each other.
“We have welcomed men before but some felt it just was not the setting for them.
“I wish a man out there would do something. Men need to be talking.
“As for our group, it is great to have this new room in Tesco. It is a good size and a lovely room.”
PIPS Family Group are open to welcome new members. Contact Patricia Perry on 07817593209 or PIPS

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