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*Tina Whelan has led the efforts to set up the centre. 

A new suicide prevention centre will open its doors in Ennis to help tackle a mental health pandemic that existed long before COVID-19.

The Haven Hub Clare will provide a safe space for those over 16 years of age who need to talk, are in crisis or family members that need to talk to peer support individuals trained in suicide prevention.

Ennis native Tina Whelan, who lost her stepson Seamus Higgins to suicide in 2013, decided to setup the centre after learning that people were being turned away from suicide prevention services in Limerick due to being from Clare.

Clare Echo Planning

“I have attended so many suicide prevention conferences and it’s the same old story. I thought Seamus’ story was the only one until I attended these, and I heard the exact same thing. You go to Ennis at night, they tell you we are full. You go to Limerick, and they say we can’t treat you because you are from Clare. Seamus was told that. My friend who was in a crisis a few months ago was told the same exact thing, you’re from Clare, you have got your own place, we can’t treat you,” Tina stated.

A management committee has been set up comprising of Tina Whelan, Timmy Dooley, Lourdes Murphy and Scott Casson Rennie. The centre, which is yet to be purchased, will be a sister hub of The Haven Hub Limerick, which was founded by Leona O’ Callaghan to counteract the closing of the majority of suicide prevention services after 11pm each night, with the exception of University Hospital Limerick (UHL).

Tackling a county that has twice the average number of people self-harming or attempting suicide, Leona led The Haven Hub Limerick to the 2018 accolade of having the highest discharge rate in the country for people who self-harm or attempt suicide. Tina lends full credit to Leona and its Limerick counterpart, who have been instrumental in assisting with essential policy as well as providing free training to future volunteers.

She highlighted that when individuals in distress are being turned away in future, the Haven Hub Clare will be open, offering a compassionate and non-judgemental service. Liaising with Haven Hub Limerick, who successfully carried out 200 suicide interventions last year, Tina aspires for Ennis to be the most trained up location in Ireland with regards to QPR training. QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer, an emergency mental health intervention for suicidal persons created in 1995 by Paul Quinnett.

Tina believes that knowledge is power and that the more people within the community that are trained up “the more chance of saving lives.” Voluntary Suicide Prevention Officers will commit to two evening per month at the Centre. “I had people ringing me previous to this, asking if I will speak to their children, brothers and sisters. I told them that I can’t as I’m not trained, all I have is personal experience. I could end up saying the wrong thing. I know it’s needed here in Clare,” she concluded.

For more information contact ‘The Haven Hub Clare’ on Facebook or call their phoneline on 089-262 1855.

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