Belfast Telegraph

Support for Glenns a lesson to politicians

Editor's Viewpoint

Two phone calls a week ago brought the lives of one Northern Ireland family crashing down around them. That was how the parents of Jack Glenn learned that he had deliberately entered the River Foyle, a tragedy that they are still trying to come to terms with, never mind understand.

Why would a 23-year-old man beloved by his family, handsome, intelligent, charming, and a talented sportsman, apparently take his own life? He had lost his job recently, but no one guessed how deeply that may have impacted on him.

Like so many others bereaved by suicide, Jack's family wonder if they missed any warning signs, or what was the trigger for their son taking such a desperate and final step?

Sadly, suicide is a huge problem in Northern Ireland. In 2015, 318 people took their own lives, an increase of 50 on the previous year. As one report starkly put it, suicide is a greater annual killer than even the Troubles.

And yet the expenditure on mental health services remains woefully inadequate. It is estimated that one in five people in Northern Ireland exhibits some signs of possible mental health problems, and depression levels here as measured through prescribing practise are significantly higher than other regions of the UK.

Now with Stormont in abeyance - and slight prospects of a speedy return to devolved governance following what has all the signs of a toxic election campaign, already marred by puerile name calling - the problems of mental health are unlikely to be addressed in a meaningful way in the near future.

The divisive election campaign is in stark contrast to the real Northern Ireland, as illustrated by the events on the banks of the River Foyle, where Jack's family keep their heartbreaking vigil hoping to see his body recovered from the river.

People of all religions and none from all over the province have rallied around the family, offering support and prayers.

It is a spontaneous outpouring of sympathy for a family going through a nightmare, showing that Northern Ireland's reputation as a caring society is in the main well founded.

Would it be possible for politicians to view this unity of purpose on the banks of the Foyle and see in it a reason to appeal to people's core values, rather than their basest instincts?

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph