Work is progressing on a new Midlands centre for the suicide and self-harm charity Pieta House, which is expected to begin providing services to the public at the beginning of October.
Located on Sean Costello Street in Athlone, the centre is scheduled to provide a six-day service offering support and professional help to those who need it from the counties of Westmeath, Offaly, Longford, Laois, Roscommon and Galway.
A redesign and refurbishment project costing in the region of €50,000 is currently underway to help tailor the premises to the requirements of the Pieta House service.
The smell of fresh paint hung in the air on Monday evening of this week as representatives of the charity and members of the local community gathered in the building for an informal tour and an update on the project.
RTE's Midlands correspondent, and Lions club volunteer, Ciaran Mullooly is helping to establish a new community support forum to coincide with the opening of the centre.
“We need the public's help to try and establish two crucial factors,” said Ciaran. “We need to create awareness firstly of the new facility and the services it offers and secondly – and even more importantly – we need to provide a support base to allow Pieta House to raise the funds to keep the service in place in the Midlands.”
He said Joan Freeman, the founder of Pieta House, first spoke to him a few years ago about the possibility of establishing a Midlands centre for the charity.
“There was a debate for a while about whether it would be in Athlone or Tullamore, and we had to make a decision, but from day one the student body being in Athlone was a big factor for Joan. You’ve got an Athlone IT with 6,000 students on your doorstep,“ said Ciaran.
While not yet finished, the premises is coming along nicely and will include a waiting room, four consulting rooms, a coffee dock, a reception area and office facilities downstairs, as well as a kitchen and other facilities upstairs.
Tom McEvoy, National Funding and Advocacy Officer for Pieta House, stated that 85% of the funding for its services comes from the community.
“It’s fantastic for Pieta to have a presence in the Midlands. We’ve been endeavouring to achieve a 100km distance for everybody in this country from a Pieta (centre). That was the vision for Joan when she started Pieta House to try and offer people having suicidal ideation the access to a service like this.”
He said Pieta House was now also helping those who have been bereaved through suicide.
“Not only are we helping and intervening and stepping in the way of somebody who is considering suicide as an option, we are now helping the families and friends and of those who have been bereaved to suicide, which is a significant step for Pieta,” he said.
Ciaran Mullooly said a support group for Pieta House urgently needed to be activated in “all the key towns which will rely on us for the services.”
“We need help in Tullamore, Birr, Clara, Longford, Ballymahon, Lanesborough, Ballinasloe, Roscommon, Mullingar, Portlaoise and Athlone.”
He added that it was hoped the new support teams in each town would work together to help organise major awareness and fundraising events in their own areas.