Teen Suicide Pact ‘In Operation’

An NI psychologist has said he is in no doubt a “sizeable suicide pact” surrounds a spate of deaths in County Armagh. Dr Arthur Cassidy has been working with young people from Laurelvale and the surrounding area after the suicides of three 15-year-old boys within a month.

The most recent death was Friday night. However, a local clergyman said he did not believe such a pact existed. The school said it was working with the education board to provide support. All three of the teenagers who have taken their own lives in the Laurelvale/Tandragee area within the last month were pupils at Craigavon Senior High School.

Principal David Mehaffey said: “First and foremost, these are tragedies for families and local communities but the school is also a community and everyone here has been deeply affected by the loss of our three students. We are also aware that this has had a major impact on the school community, our young people, their families and the staff.

“The school is trying to provide all of the support which it can in conjunction with the officers from the Southern Education and Library Board’s Critical Incident Team, who have been tremendously helpful in recent days.”

Meanwhile, Dr Cassidy told the BBC he believes up to 12 teenagers are involved in the exclusively male pact which “involves agreed dates”. “We’ve had young people coming to us crying, and saying that they fear their friend is going to be next,” said Dr Cassidy.

Dr Cassidy said the suicides have “undoubtedly been assisted by research done on the internet” where such information is widely available. “We’ve been trying to just be there for the young people, listen to their problems and show them that help is available,” he said.

“My advice for parents in the area and indeed elsewhere would be spend more time your with children and be on the look-out for any radical changes in behaviour.” Dr Cassidy added that parents should “be especially aware of new friends without any logical explanation.”

However, the Reverend Brian Harper said while there was no explanation for what had happened, he did not think there had been a suicide pact, but that rumours were causing problems.

“The community has gone into freefall hysteria over the weekend,” said the local minister. “Parents have been told that their children are dead. Children are receiving text messages that their best friends are dead. They are going absolutely hysterical, and once text messaging starts, it flies through the whole community. There hasn’t been a single bit of truth to any of the rumours.”

Meanwhile, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said suicide prevention was a priority for his department. “We have a pilot help line in north and west Belfast and I have given instructions to roll that out throughout Northern Ireland,” he said. “We have mentoring services on pilot, I want that roled out through Northern Ireland.”