Youthfest tackles issues head on at Long Tower Church

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A local parish is launching a new initiative aiming to break the silence around suicide and self-harm with a particular focus on young people.

Following extensive conversations with young people, teachers and parents in the local community, the Long Tower parish is tackling the issue head-on and trying to reach-out to young people who may be experiencing difficulties.

Known as Youth Fest, the initiative will kick-off with a discussion with Angela and her son Alan Hayes and local man Liam Coyle. Angela tragically lost both her husband and son to suicide and has since become a courageous advocate encouraging people who are facing difficulties to reach out. Liam has spoken recently about his struggle around suicide and we commend him for sharing his story with his local community.

Along with her 18-year-old son Alan, Mrs Hayes has appeared on The Late Late Show on RTÉ One to raise awareness about suicide prevention.

Liam Coyle, the former Derry City Football Club striker is known to his local community for his amazing skills on the pitch and his goal scoring record.

Local priest Fr Brendan Collins, who is helping to organise the initiative, described Angela, Alan and Liam as “inspirational” because of the way they faced suicide head on. “Too often it is seen as a taboo and we only talk about the issue when it is too late,” according to Fr Collins.

Fr Collins explained that the initiative came from the Pastoral Council in a bid to address the very real issues faced by many people in the parish.

“As a team we have listened to concerns from our young people, teachers, parents and our community, as a parish we have decided to help tackle some of these issues,” he said.

He explained that Youth Fest will hold four events a year and the focus on suicide is only the beginning.

“This event will take the form of an interview rather than a talk and the young people are free to make comments and to ask questions, we will also have local service providers available as well as counsellors on the day to offer support and advice if needed,” according to Fr Collins.

Youth Fest will take place Long Tower Church on Friday February 27, 2015 at 1.45pm.