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Family devastated by triple suicide plead for others to seek help

By Allan Preston

Published 01/01/2016

Colleen Lagan and Eamon Sloan
Colleen Lagan and Eamon Sloan
Tiarnan Bassett

A north Belfast family that suffered three suicides in 2015 has pleaded with young people with problems to seek help.

Colleen Lagan (28) took her own life on Christmas Day, just months after cousins Eamon Sloan (25) and Tiarnan Bassett (20) died by suicide.

There was further tragedy within 24 hours of Colleen's funeral on Tuesday, with one of her friends who attended the service ending her life overnight.

Bridgit Sloan, Colleen's aunt, also lost her son, Eamon, to suicide in February.

He worked as a chef and was the father of a three-year-old boy.

Bridgit urged young people facing difficulties to remember "there is nothing in this world so bad that it can not be fixed some way or other".

She made the emotional appeal on her Facebook page, having just attended her niece's funeral at Holy Cross chapel in the north of the city.

"To all you young people out there, please think about what you are doing - suicide is not the answer," she wrote.

"Our three family members had all their lives ahead of them. They are with us no more. People say they are at peace now and they are happy. All that I know is we are all devastated. Depression is curable, death is not."

On Wednesday, Colleen's parents, Kate and Gerard, bravely addressed an audience of around 100 people at a special meeting at Holy Cross chapel.

Just 24 hours earlier, they had spoken from the altar of their daughter's funeral to beg people not to give into suicide.

"I prayed and prayed and prayed that nobody would do it on the back of our Colleen," said Kate. "We did everything we could, but now we hear there's bad news."

Gerard added: "We didn't want to see this happen to another family and that's why we got up on the altar, which I don't think has ever been done before.

"We wanted to shock them, but it wasn't enough because within 24 hours another young girl was dead."

Colleen was a founding member of the Shamrock ladies football team in Ardoyne.

Kate told how her daughter had been looking forward to starting a new job as a kitchen porter and had spoken about how she was going to "put all the evil behind her".

"She said she wanted to make us proud, but now she's down a hole, and that's not making your parents proud," she told the audience at the chapel.

"That's where she is - she's down a hole. I don't mean to be so harsh, but that's what it is."

"Really, it's not about us now - it's about trying to get people to talk. Once you do start talking about it, God only knows, but it could open a whole new world to you."

Kate also expressed concern about the availability of illegal drugs in her community, saying that they "eat away at our children's lives".

The Public Initiative Prevention of Suicide and Self Harm (PIPS) is offering support to those dealing with stress, feeling depressed or suicidal over the festive period.

Chief executive Brian Maguire said: "We want to let everyone know they are not alone.

"We would like to extend our sympathy to the families and friends of the two recent deaths in north Belfast, and would encourage everyone to watch out for each other and don't be afraid to speak out and get help.

"Our New Year message is 'Think Hope'. There is always hope that, with the right support, your mental health will improve and put you on the road to recovery.

"Don't be afraid to pick the phone up and speak to our friendly staff, who will put you in the right direction."

PIPS can be contacted seven days a week on 028 9080 5850 or Freephone 0800 088 6042.

Additionally, if you are affected by any of the issues in this article, you can contact the Samaritans on 084 5790 9090, or Lifeline 080 8808 8000.

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