In the first of a series of articles relating to suicide, Andrea McKernon meets Roni Corry, manager of the Aware Defeat Depression help centre...

Everybody Hurts are the immortal words penned by super group REM.
But this year those famous sentiments have been most deeply felt in our own community where a growing group of families are struggling to come to terms with a loss of a loved one through suicide.
As health professionals and communities struggle to react to the crisis, the North Belfast News revealed last week the number of local people lost to suicide was standing at 17 this year alone.
The population in North and West Belfast has well above the average for suicides and people involved in self-harm.
But there is help out there for people who feel the pressures and strains of life are too much and who feel they have nowhere and no one to turn to. And in the run up to Christmas that suffering can be more acutely felt.
Aware Defeat Depression opened its offices on Donegal Street last summer and has helped hundreds of people in crisis.
Including many former sufferers of depression, the staff are there to help people in distress.
The voluntary organisation gives support to people affected by depression – a word well recognised but not fully understood – and its devastating consequences.
Depression brings acute distress and serious impairment to the lives of thousands of people in Ireland every year.
The North of Ireland now has 20 per cent higher incidences of depression than in Britain and the World Health Organisation estimates that by the year 2020 depression will be the second most debilitating illness in the world – second only to heart disease.
It’s estimated depression will affect one in four of us sometime in our lives, but due to the stigma surrounding emotional and mental health issues, people are still reluctant to seek help leading to tragedy and prolonged suffering.

Roni Corry is Aware Defeat Depression Help Centre Manager at the Donegall Street office. She has personal experience of depression after her sister was diagnosed with the condition over ten years ago.
With centres in Dublin and Derry, she says the Belfast office has been busy since opening with people phoning in, coming in off the street and volunteers running information days and lectures – one of which will come to Belfast Castle at the end of this month.
The group is also involved in schools across the North with young people who are especially sensitive to depression.
And she explains the work of the team in ADD is to make life better for depression sufferers and ultimately stop people from taking those final steps to suicide that cause untold misery and despair among those left behind.
The group has worked closely with locally established suicide prevention group, the PIPS Project.
“There is a high percentage of people lost to suicide who have been depressed,” she says.
“There are different types of depression – ordinary depression and bipolar depression, which is also known as manic depression. The symptoms of depression can be a dramatic loss or increase in appetite, the disruption of sleeping patterns – either waking early or not getting to sleep and graphic or disturbing dreams at night.
“You can have a loss of interest in things you would normally like to do. There are feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness and you’re not able to concentrate.
“Often people can’t concentrate on even a sentence. They can have suicidal thoughts or plans – thoughts or attempts at suicide.”
Roni Corry says depression can be brought on by a simple chemical imbalance in the brain or by environmental factors such as relationship breakdown, bereavement or change of circumstance.
“Life changes, bereavements, drugs and alcohol are all factors as well.
“People see the environmental factors more in people living in isolated rural communities, but we are finding the opposite is happening here and these problems are in the towns and cities.”

The local centre is made up of five staff who have suffered depression and three workers involved in aspects of depression such as working in schools and the community.
“We help people get through things. Some people are more vulnerable and have less coping mechanisms than others and we teach those mechanisms.
“In the worst situations when people are calling and they’re suicidal we can give them help immediately.
“It’s a listening ear service, we are not here to judge people. A lot of the time people don’t want their families to know and we appreciate it’s sometimes easier to talk to someone not in your family.
“But it’s best that the family knows and they are there for support.”
Roni says November is a particularly difficult month for people coping with the upcoming Christmas and New Year season.
But the news is good for depression sufferers and the centre looks forward to helping more people back to a fulfiled life, free of the shackles of emotional anguish.
“Most people fully recover from depression, but the best way is to get help quickly. That is getting to your doctor or GP and telling them the way you are feeling.
“If you don’t say you are feeling suicidal, they can’t help. You must also tell people you are close to.
“When someone takes their own life, the family always say they didn’t know they were suffering and it’s very difficult for these families.
“There is help out there and once over the crisis, there are support groups here people can attend.
“A lot of past sufferers are now helping new sufferers in these groups. Because depression is such an awful time for sufferers, those who have been helped often want to get back and help others.
“And if you have been depressed it’s more likely it will happen again. The key here is to look after yourself emotionally, get lots of sleep and eat and exercise well.
“Our message is you don’t have to suffer depression alone. There is a support centre here in your community.”
If you are experiencing emotional trauma and would like help in strict confidence, you can call Aware Defeat Depression on 90321734 or their Derry office on 02871 260602.
You can email them at info@aware-ni.org or call in to 66 Donegal Street during normal office hours.
There will be a public talk on the diagnosis and treatment of depression at Belfast Castle on Tuesday November 30 at 8pm. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

Journalist:: Andrea McKernon

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