Prayers for families affected by suicide

By Ashleigh Wallace - Belfast Telegraph

13 December 2004


A tree of lights has been established in the City Hall in Belfast in memory of all those who have taken their own lives.

A cross-community service, attended by the Lord Mayor, was held in the City Hall last night.

Friends and relatives of those who have committed suicide placed the names of their loved ones on a Christmas tree in the Great Hall, creating a memory tree of lights.

Last night's service was organised in partnership with the Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self Harm (PIPS) and involved prayers and reflections by those directly affected by suicide.

Among those attending was Philip McTaggart, whose 17-year old son Philip took his own life.

The Ardoyne teenager hanged himself in April 2002.

Lord Mayor Tom Ekin said: "Suicide is an issue stretching across our community, devastating many families.

"In Northern Ireland, the number of deaths by suicide has overtaken the number of road traffic fatalities. North and west Belfast has been particularly affected.

"Christmas is a particularly emotive time and Belfast City Council, having been asked by PIPS, wanted to show our solidarity and support for those left behind.

"Creating a physical memory such as a tree of lights can be comforting for families and coming together with others in prayer and reflection for their loved ones is an important part of that."

The Rev Bill Shaw, speaking on behalf of PIPS, said last night's event was about supporting those left behind. He said: "There is help and people understand what they are going through - who will stand with them and support them in their pain, confusion and anger."