Phones bid to save lives

Police and the coroner leave the scene of the man's death at the Bann towpath.
Police and the coroner leave the scene of the man's death at the Bann towpath.

A Portadown suicide prevention group is organising a bold scheme of telephone numbers, contained on large discs, for the banks of the Bann after the latest incident at the river.

The body of Mr Philip Murphy (41) was discovered at the boulevard by a group of children last Thursday - one of two men who took their own lives in the area last week.

The other was Rev Austin Allan, a respected retired Free Presbyterian minister in his late 70s, whose body was found on Friday in the garden of his Knockview Drive home in Tandragee.

The ‘Yellow Ribbon’ - which runs a 24/7 service from Church Street - is planning a £2,000 project to provide the discs containing phone numbers, which they hope will deter people from making that choice.

Said Dr Arthur Cassidy, a consultant psychiatrist who heads the group, “The plan is to include a simple message for people contemplating suicide on what is a notorious spot for this sad practice.

“They will also contain our address at Church Street and how to contact us by phone. There are two numbers - 02838-331485 and 07999-030220.”

He added that the tragedy of Mr Murphy was typical of suicides over the years, and the hope was that the message would get through to people deeply depressed.

Mr Allan’s death was atypical, with suicides of older people a rarity. It is thought that the death of his wife a number of years ago and his own frail state of health precipitated the situation.

Dr Cassidy added that young people were also a high-risk group. Modern society, he claimed, added to the dangers. These included the loosening of family ties, the break-down of once-tight communities and cyber bullying.

“Another recent phenomenon,” he said, “is the pressure of farming where many rural people simply cannot making a living despite all their hard work. Rock-bottom prices by supermarkets have played a major role there.”

Mr Murphy, who was living in Portadown with his wife, was buried at Ardmore Parish Churchyard on Sunday, and Mr Allan was interred at Tandragee Free Presbyterian Churchyard yesterday (Wednesday).