PwC NI to help deliver mental health champions in north and west Belfast

An innovative suicide prevention programme that will see 45 young people in north and west Belfast design and develop a computer game to improve mental health has been selected by PwC Northern Ireland as its 2019 PwC Challenge partner.

Chosen by a panel of independent experts including Professor Siobhan O’Neill from Ulster University, over £40,000 will be donated to the programme developed by The Hummingbird Project, Bytes Project and Kippie CIC.

The PwC Challenge asked organisations in north and west Belfast to collaborate and create an innovative approach to addressing the devastating impact of suicide in the area. Northern Ireland has the highest rate of suicide in the UK, and more people have died through suicide since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement than from violence during the Troubles. The challenge was launched on World Suicide Prevention Day in September, and over twenty organisations took part.

The Hummingbird Project will deliver a two-pronged approach to create a sustainable support network that extends beyond the young people on the programme.

The three partners will specifically work with young people who live in temporary accommodation, due to socio/economic factors such as after exiting the care system, to help tackle the stigma around suicide prevention.

The approach includes teaching ICT skills and emotional resilience training. As well as co-designing and co-developing the innovative computer game to inform and upskill users in the issues surrounding suicidal crisis. Ten young people from Flax and Clonard will receive level two training in emotional resilience to create resident mental health champions.

Leigh Carey from the Hummingbird Project said:

“We felt we had an obligation to create options and support for vulnerable people that made them less likely to end up within a suicidal crisis, rather than wait until they faced one to provide an intervention. Being supported by PwC Northern Ireland has given us the freedom to come up with an innovative programme which we believe will be transformational.

“The young people who join us will be empowered to become a source of support and inspiration in their neighbourhoods and with their peers. It is critical to us that the programme can create a legacy to deliver meaningful change not just this year, but in the years to come.”

PwC Northern Ireland Partner Dr David Armstrong commented:

“People living in Northern Ireland are far more vulnerable to suicidal crisis than those living elsewhere in the UK. The impact of the ‘Troubles’ is a constant challenge, combined with the societal difficulties such as childhood poverty rates and educational underachievement.

“The PwC Challenge is one of the most important projects that we have partnered on to date, and we have been inspired by the commitment and dedication demonstrated by every group that took part in the selection process.

“The multi-stranded innovative programme developed by the Hummingbird Project, Bytes Project and Kippie CIC excited the whole panel because it can deliver immediate support and inspiration, and empower young people to deliver lifelong help in their own communities.”

The panel unanimously decided to also back a one-year pilot project called Change Makers, delivered by TAMHI, SAMHI and West Belfast Health Alliance. This will identify ‘change makers’ in the community and teach them how to provide mental health support through game-playing in sports clubs, schools and youth clubs across north and west Belfast.

The group will work with clubs in the top 10% most deprived areas in Northern Ireland including New Lodge, Ballysillan, Highfield, Ballygomartin and Whiterock. 15 groups and 50 coaches will be helped to design and implement their own mental health and wellbeing programmes targeting key dates in the world calendar such as ‘Time to Talk’ in February and ‘Mental Health Week’ in May.

Joe Donnelly from TAMHI said:

“We have a proven track record in championing mental health and tackling the negative social issues that impact upon it. By focusing on delivering this through sport, we’re engaging with a variety of people and helping them to identify issues and find ways to address them through game-play.

“An important aspect for us is the ability to engage with the wider community as well. When we take our programme to schools we will ask for volunteers to help us, and look forward to working with companies like PwC Northern Ireland on this.”

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