A Galway man who spent two years on the road raising suicide awareness is pushing for his charity to gain official government status.
Colm Farrell, of Tuam, set up Stamp Out Suicide (SOS) after a few people in his hometown took their own lives in 2011. He spent more than 600 days covering the length and breadth of Great Britain and Ireland, speaking with families affected by suicide and continues to help others from his base in Leeds. But SOS currently relies on public donations, and is desperate to reach the £5,000 required to be eligible for government funding.
“We’re currently facing a battle with the books, though I’m sure we’ll get there in the end.
“It just seems that everything we receive in donations, we’re soon paying the same amount out in running costs,” Colm said.
The charity was helped by the efforts of John Lambe, from Huddersfield, who raised £1,000 by completing a no-drink January challenge and a ten kilometre run. John had hoped to raise £200 but ended up smashing his target when people heard about what he was collecting money for. Colm was also grateful for contributions from two people who staged fundraising events at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
“I don’t know these people but they obviously know who I am,” he said.
“We had one bloke who raised £1,450 and a man from Liverpool who gave us about £900.”
The next fundraiser inline is a balloon race on April 1 and, although Colm admitted that they will face the same problem over admin costs, he explained that any exposure will benefit the charity’s cause.
He said: “Even if we break even on the balloons, we’ll still be pleased as our name will be there in front of 10,000 people at Headingley Stadium [in Leeds].”
Ben Nevis challenge
They have also got a Ben Nevis challenge planned which will involve 31 participants from the Britain and Ireland climbing the UK’s highest peak. Even if SOS doesn’t currently have official charity status, its goal of helping people as quickly and effectively as possible remains the same.
“We want to be there for people, that’s the main thing,” Colm explained.
“It’s about giving people something that they might not have seen as available beforehand.
“A lot of people, whether they themselves are having suicidal thoughts or whether they know someone who is, don’t know how to handle the situation.
“The best way without a doubt is to confront it head on – in 90 per cent of cases, people accept this and then are able to tackle it effectively.”
The charity offers a free-to-all phone-line service. Those in crisis send a text to a specific number and are called immediately by SOS. They are then set up with a counsellor appropriate to their needs and are eligible for up to 18 weeks of free counselling. Colm feels that it is this unique system that sets his venture apart from similar services and makes it such a worthwhile cause.
“Where we differ is that we can offer you that counselling,” he said.
“Take the Samaritans, for example, they are a great organization – they do superb, unparalleled work but we have that slight other angle.
“Some people don’t have access to counselling; going through the NHS can be a lengthy procedure, while others don’t respond well to medication.
“It’s been very successful for us and, fortunately, we’ve had no sad stories coming out of the process.”
Colm is incredibly passionate about what he does and said he has never felt more inspired than he did traversing the country, talking to those affected by suicide. He is proud of what he and his colleagues have achieved so far but the next stage is getting across the £5,000 line so SOS can receive government funding.
Right now they are floating around the halfway point but with various fundraising efforts on the horizon, the future is bright. Colm said: “At the moment we’ve got about £2,500 in the bank and slowly but surely we’re getting there. “It’s one step at a time but we’re confident we’ll get there in the end and we’ll achieve that official status.”
• Information about the balloon race can be found at: www.stampoutsuicide.co.uk
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