A group of young people mourning the loss of friends who have died by suicide in Northern Ireland are staging a gala ball in their memory.
Six young people, from the Dundonald and Belfast areas, are also using the event to help raise funds for two leading charities, Action Mental Health and Pips, the suicide and self-harm prevention organisation.
The Suicide Awareness Gala Ball will be held at the Stormont Hotel, Belfast on Saturday, September 29. The group is appealing for local businesses to offer prizes for raffles to help raise more money on the night.
Sisters Jodie and Robyn Gouin, from Dundonald, have lost two friends in the past six years and together with four other friends – Phil and Gareth McGimpsey, Ryan Harris and Lauren Brown – they have decided to host the ball together.
They felt compelled to act following their friends’ untimely deaths, and by staging the gala, they hope to raise money for both Action Mental Health and for Pips, to shine a light on the rising problem of suicide, especially in young men.
Jodie, 26 said: "We want to raise awareness and to try to break down the stigmas that prevent males, especially, from talking about their problems and whatever drives them to such drastic – and final – steps, as suicide."
Her younger sister Robyn, who is 22 agreed: “One of our friends was there for me and very supportive when our grandad died. He was the first one to come to me and tell me to keep going on, but then it wasn’t so long after that that he took his own life.
“Suicide is on the increase and there are still people, especially young men, who suffer anxiety or other issues who are afraid to talk about it, and we have to do something about that,” she added.
“We have to raise awareness that there are people and organisations, like Action Mental Health and Pips, which can help. People who are suffering need to know they are not alone.”