A new project is being launched today in Camden, North London, to help Irish middle-aged men who are living with mental health problems and have a higher risk of suicide. The aim is to help them feel more in control of their own lives, and able to support each other.
The project, which will run at the London Irish Centre in Camden, aims to test the effectiveness of a ‘peer support’ approach to suicide prevention, in the hope that it could be extended across the country.
Men in the UK are three times more likely than women to take their own lives with men in mid-life at greatest risk. Irish men living in the boroughs of Camden and Islington have been found to be at even higher risk relative to people born elsewhere.
This is a joint project between the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) and Immigrant Counselling and Psychotherapy (icap), which offers counselling and psychotherapy to Irish people in England.
Catherine Hennessy from icap said: “The men we hope to work with are often socially isolated and are not engaging with services. We want to help them to build their capacity to manage their day-to-day lives and improve their wellbeing.”
Ben Plimpton, Project Manager from the Mental Health Foundation said: “We know from experience of other ‘peer support’ work that bringing people together in small, supportive groups can help them develop new ways of coping – for instance with difficult relationships. It can also lead to new friendships that continue long after the six-week group itself has finished. These friendships can be critical to suicide prevention because it helps address isolation and can help participants to keep using the new approaches they have learned.”
The project, known as the Comhar project (from the Irish word meaning ‘teamwork’ or ‘cooperation’), will train 12 participants to co-facilitate later sessions alongside project staff from MHF and icap.
MHF’s experience of other peer support work shows that people are more likely to relate to trainers who have been through similar experiences to themselves.
In November the project then will run 10 six-week courses over a 10-month period, with the aim of having 12 men participate in each course. Participants needing further support will also be offered individual counselling through icap. The MHF is recruiting participants to these courses.
The project will be formally evaluated, with the results used to inform other suicide-prevention work and potentially an expansion of the project throughout the country.