Untimely death of Brenda Shankey's sister shows more must be done to help those who suffer with addiction
One of the saddest stories this newspaper has reported recently is the passing of Erin Wilkinson, sister of Brenda Shankey, who died aged 32 after a long battle with addiction.
As her funeral takes place today in Londonderry, her heartbroken sister and the entire family will be dealing with the traumatic effects of Erin's loss.
The tragedy is compounded by the fact that for the greater part of her existence, Erin lived a fulfilled and happy life until she descended into the spiral of addiction.
Brenda and the wider family did everything they could to save Erin, but unfortunately it was to no avail.
They tried every resource available to help Erin escape from the horrible pit that totally entrapped her life.
Erin was taken to AA, which has a very good record of rehabilitation, but this also failed.
During the last period of her life Erin was admitted to hospital 25 times within 12 months. That statistic is startling, but despite all this treatment, Erin slipped away.
Her story is a graphic and personal illustration of the ravages caused by addiction.
Brenda makes the strong point that there is still a stigma attached to drug addiction, and that the long illness and death of people through cancer or another terminal illness are viewed very differently.
Clearly there is a need at the highest level for a hard look at the funds being channelled to help people in the grip of life-threatening and ultimately terminal addiction.
There are calls on the resources at Stormont for many other important causes, but the widespread devastation caused by addiction needs to be given a much higher profile, and more support is needed from the Government and other sources.
Brenda Shankey has shown commendable courage in drawing our attention to this appalling state of affairs, and we must do all we can in order to provide a helping hand.