THE parents of a Whiteabbey teenager who took his own life after getting hooked on mephedrone have donated more than £1,000 to local drugs awareness and suicide prevention projects.
Since the tragic death of their 17-year-old son Lee in March 2010, Ricky and Shirley Campbell have used their personal tragedy as motivation to raise funds for organisations working with young people to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs, and help those at risk of committing suicide. The Glenville Road couple don’t want any other family to suffer the pain and heartache they’ve been through.
Following a successful bag pack fundraiser at Sainsbury’s in Carrickfergus, Ricky and Shirley were this week able to hand over a cheque for £800 to the North Belfast-based Lighthouse suicide and self harm support group. And thanks to a kind donation, they were also able to present £300 to Whiteabbey Community Group for its work with young people in the area.
The community group, as part of the IFI-funded Building Bridges programme, recently ran a five-week drugs awareness course for children and teenagers from the Whiteabbey and Monkstown areas. During the course, the young people were given advice about the dangers of using drugs, the consequences of getting a criminal record and assurances that there is help available for those struggling to cope with addiction. Ricky and Shirley also spoke to the group about their personal experiences with Lee and dealing with his tragic death.
“I think that people who have actually been through this sort of thing and have the personal experience are the best people to talk to the community and to get the message across to the young people,” said Margaret King, Project Coordinator of the Building Bridges initiative.
Margaret explained that 16 community workers - eight from Whiteabbey and eight from Monkstown - will undergo training in the coming weeks to provide an on-call service for young people and parents in both areas, giving them someone to turn to for help and advice about issues such as drugs and self harm. She also stressed that a further drugs awareness and suicide prevention course is being planned for later in the year.
Warning that drug dealers are now targeting children as young as primary school age, Ricky added: “We need to be educating children from a younger age these days as the drugs problem is getting out of control. We need to educate kids not to buy drugs and warn them about the consequences of using drugs.”
Ricky and Shirley, who have taken on several fundraising challenges since Lee’s death, thanked everyone who supported their efforts this year, and vowed to continue backing organisations such as Whiteabbey Community Group and Lighthouse in their efforts to educate young people about the dangers of drugs and provide help to those in despair.