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COLERAINE’S top police officer has revealed a shocking rise in the number of self-harm cases amongst young people living on a North Coast housing estate.

Chief Inspector Nicky Thompson, Area Commander for the borough, said the PSNI had seen an upsurge in calls for help from young people in the Dhu Varren area of Portrush.

And he revealed that local police are seeking to tackle the issue head on by introducing their own support scheme to wean youngsters off the cycle of abuse and low self esteem.

The Chief Inspector made the startling revelation last week at the August meeting of the District Policing Partnership, held in Garvagh.

Speaking to local community leaders, the Area Commander told the meeting he had grown increasingly concerned at the physical abuse youngsters were inflicting on themselves in the resort.

“Constable Mike Elwood, the beat officer for Dhu Varren, in consultation with local community representatives, identified that there had been a large increase in people causing self harm in the estates,” he announced.

“A check of police records relating to calls for assistance from people in the area, identified that several calls had been made from this one estate,” he continued.

“So, Portrush police liaised with various charities and drew up an assistance programme which a number of local people are now availing of.

He added: “This involves a volunteer spending time with these vulnerable people and listening to their concerns. When it is appropriate the volunteer can then make referrals to other support groups as necessary.”

Portrush UUP councillor, Norman Hillis, said he was surprised at the “worrying” news as the local grapevine had been relatively quiet about the abuse.

“I would be interested to know if there’s a higher incidence of self-harm here than anywhere else,” he said.

“We really need to do everything we can to get a reduction, or better still an eradication, of this problem,” he added.

Constable Elwood, architect of the scheme, refused to take credit for the positive work the PSNI had done with the estate’s kids, praising instead the two charities, Active Listening and Patchwork, who are providing community support and counselling for an unnamed number of young people.