Belfast Telegraph

Crusading mum of suicide victim urges MLAs to return to work and help fight epidemic

By Leona O'Neill

A Londonderry mum who lost her teenage son says it is imperative our politicians get back around the table at Stormont to combat the "suicide epidemic" in the city and beyond.

Over the last 13 years paediatric nurse Lorraine Curran (49) has helped organise a charity football tournament in memory of her son Mark McCann and his friend Conor Carlyle, who both took their lives within the space of two years.

Mark was just 17 when he passed away in 2005. His friend Conor had just turned 20 when he died in 2007.

Last week Lorraine put out a city-wide appeal for shoes so she could fashion a poignant symbol to represent the number of lives lost to suicide locally and to highlight awareness of the issue.

On Saturday she placed 444 pairs of shoes around the touchline at the Nadger and Conor Memorial Cup tournament in Ballymagroarty, each pair representing a person who had died by suicide in Derry since her own son.

"Mark was your typical 17-year-old. He was quiet, he enjoyed the craic with his friends," she said.

"He was lovely, my middle boy, he had everything to live for, and the canyon of why? I just don't have the answers.

"But what I do know is that whatever is happening at the minute, it needs to be addressed.

"Suicide at the moment is so rife within the city of Derry. It's on social media, it's on the news and there are a lot of people who are passionate about combating it on the street. I think we really need to move on.

"But nothing really has changed. We need to get our politicians back in and around the table and get something done."

Lorraine said that in placing the shoes around the pitch, she wanted to highlight the issue in an arena that young men would be comfortable with.

"The trauma of a death within the family reaches approximately 60 people," she said. "This doesn't just stop at the front door. This is community-wide.

"I think that my personal experience, where I've been, where I've come to now, all I have is my voice, and the football pitch is a perfect arena for the boys. Research has shown that it is mostly young males who take their own lives. Boys are very introverted and they don't really like talking about their feelings, so if we can give them some information about where to go, and take the stigma of mental health away, talk about if there is alcohol and drug misuse, the question of why and the what ifs...

"I'm just a mummy who lost her son.

"I am a paediatric nurse, I work in the hospital and so I have experience of it in my personal and my professional life."

She added that the football tournament was a "celebration of Mark's and Conor's lives".

"I was blessed to be Mark's mummy, I was chosen to be his mummy for 17 years and four months. The football tournament is a bittersweet event."

If you are in distress the Samaritans can be contacted at anytime for free on 116 123

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