LOCAL mental health and suicide prevention charity PIPS have launched a Befriending Helpline in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

The Antrim Road charity had offered counselling sessions over the phone but is now adding Befriending Helpline, using all the Charity’s Care Team to help those in need. The charity is not government-funded and relies on donations.

The service will operate from Monday to Friday 9am-9pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 2-6pm. 

PIPS have put a number of safeguards in place with all befrienders having been Access NI checked and trained with the PIPS befriending programme which was designed by PIPS care team.

Anyone receiving a call will also receive a code which will allow them to know it is safe to talk to the befriender.

“As the community is adhering to the government’s rules and advice regarding lockdown, many people may find themselves more isolated than usual," said PIPS charity spokeswoman Martina McIlkenny.

“PIPS Charity’s Befriending service is there if you want some company, want a chat, or want to clear your head. The service is free and here to help if needed.” 

SDLP councillor Paul McCusker has welcomed the new befriending service.

“The impact of coronavirus isolation on the mental health of people across our city and across this island has been immense," he said. "I see and hear about it first-hand every day, people who were already lonely or isolated feel totally shut off from their friends, family and community.

“I want to commend PIPS Belfast for the new befriending service they’ve launched today that will offer emotional support and a listening ear to those who feel isolated or aren’t coping well with the lockdown. We can only get through this together."

PIPS Charity can be contacted on 028 9080 5850 or by email: info@pipscharity.com