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Last Updated: Monday, 11 July, 2005, 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK
Highland suicide toll is revealed
Figures show more than 50 people committed suicide in the Highlands
More than 50 people took their own lives in the Highlands last year, according to new research.

The figures have prompted volunteers to set up a support group to try to tackle the problem.

The Hilton At Risk Project (HARP) helps individuals considered at risk of taking their own lives by providing confidential support and advice.

Three young Highland men from the same football team killed themselves just under a year ago.

The tragedy prompted the volunteer helpers to set up the support group in Inverness.

They target young and old people alike, highlight problems faced by individuals and are backed by experts on suicide.

The organisation is also trying to boost the services already available in the area and is now focusing on the younger generation in the community.

Founder Karen Shaw said: "There was nothing being done at all to tackle the problem of the suicides, so that's when I came in.

Karen Shaw
The project will actually open a world of wonder and discovery for the families and for the children
Karen Shaw
Hilton At Risk Project

"What we have achieved is no suicides in the area, a lot more energy around the place and self-worth and a lot more self-esteem.

"The project will actually open a world of wonder and discovery for the families and for the children especially because they're our next generation, they're our key hope for the future."

Single mother-of-five Laura Sharpe added: "To be honest I would be back where I was a year ago, the depression, the panic attacks and things like that.

"I don't think I would have my five kids myself if it wasn't for the help from the group."

Highland boss of Choose Life, Michael Perera, said: "We know certainly there are groups of people who find it hard to talk to anybody about how they are feeling - especially when they are feeling so desperate that they are considering suicide.

"A group like the HARP project, which is informal but you've got people with some level of knowledge who might be able to act and pass someone on to a helping service, will go a long way towards helping the suicide problem and reducing the stigma."

Footballers Mark Thow, Ivor Robertson and Richard Burnside were all fathers in their 40s who hanged themselves in separate suicides last year.

Depressed man
Depression is a common form of mental illness

Their families at the time called on ministers to help curb similar deaths in the Highlands.

They said raising awareness of suicide and researching common links between the deaths was vital.

The Highlands and Islands Support Group for Grieving Families was set up with the aim of helping those whose loved ones have taken their own lives.

Members called for fatal accident inquiry-style investigations into suicides in the Highlands.

In Scotland, fatal accident inquiries into suspected suicides are only called in exceptional circumstances.

Plea to reduce Highland suicides
04 Oct 04 |  Scotland
Call for full suicide inquiries
19 May 04 |  Scotland
Training to spot suicide risks
08 Sep 03 |  Scotland
Male depression fears grow
10 Jun 03 |  Scotland
'Stop the suicides' plan unveiled
02 Dec 02 |  Scotland
Helpline for depressed men
11 Mar 02 |  Scotland

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