Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland dad fighting mental illness stigma urges people to join march

By Victoria Leonard

Northern Ireland's first ever Mental Health Pride Day will take place next month after a spate of young male suicides motivated a campaigner to fight against the stigma associated with depression.

Father-of-two Gordon McNeill (48) - whose candid YouTube videos documenting his own battle with suicidal feelings have gone viral - recently launched the HeadStrong Life Campaign for a new state-of-the-art mental health hospital in Northern Ireland.

The Ballymena man has battled mental illness since a motorbike accident in 1989 led to a series of operations, leaving him in constant pain and culminating in a suicide attempt four years ago.

On Saturday, October 7, he is hoping to be joined by a crowd of thousands to call for an end to the stigma still suffered by those with a mental illness.

"I'm going to stand up and say that I won't be stigmatised and no one is inferior because they have a mental health condition. I am hoping others will stand with me," he said.

"I launched the HeadStrong Life Campaign to challenge what people think about mental health. For me, stigma really does kill, because people fear going out and speaking out as they fear ostracisation.

"It breaks my heart to think of the young people in Northern Ireland who took their lives recently, as I know the emotional trauma they were in. I'm also heartbroken for the people who are left behind asking: 'Why?'"

The Mental Health Pride march will leave Queens Square at noon, passing through the city centre and back again for 2pm.

"I am hoping to be joined by charities and by people affected or those who support them - everyone is welcome," said Gordon.

"I would like to think this will turn into an annual event where people will get the courage to break the taboo of suicide."

He is also calling for our politicians to break the Stormont deadlock and come together to boost mental health support facilities.

"If people focus their minds we can change the future and change the dynamic of Northern Ireland," he added.

For more information, visit the HeadStrong Life Campaign Facebook page

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