Belfast Telegraph

Former Belfast councillor opens up on suicide attempt in bid to help others struggling with mental health

David Armitage went missing in Belfast with the intention of taking his own life.

(Naomi Long’s Twitter/PA)
(Naomi Long’s Twitter/PA)
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

A former Belfast councillor has opened up about how he tried to take his own life after battling depression.

David Armitage, a former Alliance party councillor, went missing with the intention of taking his life on Sunday August 19 last year.

Almost a year after taking the decision, Mr Armitage, who represented the Titanic area, has written about his experience on his personal blog.

"I walked into Belfast City Centre, and down to the river to drown and escape my existence," he wrote.

"I could not cope with the pressures of life, the health service could not provide assistance and I felt that I was on my own and nobody cared about me. How wrong I was and how grateful I am to be here."

Mr Armitage said he had been struggling for months with depression despite seeking help from his GP, his Church and friends. He had taken time off work and had sought support from the East Belfast Survivors of Suicide, an outreach group which works to prevent suicide.

A few weeks before he went missing, Mr Armitage was taken to casualty because he felt he could not carry on fighting against depression.

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Message: David Armitage

"I was worn out and gave in to the inevitable. It was one of my darkest days and there was no respite as the emergency psychiatric team diagnosed me," he said.

"They recognised I was suicidal and at risk, but they gave me a leaflet saying to carry on engaging with the services I was receiving; and discharged me. I was sent back to live and fend on my own."

He went to church on the day he went missing before getting overwhelmed and leaving.

He then posted on social media: "My mental health is getting worse again. I don't want to carry on any more."

The worrying post led to Alliance Party leader Naomi Long opening the East Belfast party office and her staff began coordinating the search.

Mr Armitage's church, Belfast City Vineyard, encouraged people to help and sent them to the Alliance office, while some stayed to pray.

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Naomi Long

Councillors from across the political spectrum in Northern Ireland volunteered to help with the search.

"From Sinn Fein to Loyalist groups and all in between, I heard that an Orange group returning from a parade diverted their coach so that they could take part," he said.

"When I was told all this, at first I did not believe as I was still convinced that I was invisible, but I am so grateful and humble that people showed they cared."

The PSNI became involved in the search and broke the door down into the house he was renting to see if he was there.

Mr Armitage said that when he was ready to enter the River Lagan he heard someone say his name. He looked up and saw a couple and one of them held their phone out. They showed him a picture of himself and asked if it was him. He nodded and they asked if they could contact Naomi Long on his behalf. He agreed.

To be honest, if they said go and jump into the Lagan, I would have. I am so glad they did not. David Armitage

"Michael and Naomi Long came and after hugs and tears, they took me to casualty. Michael asked what could I expect from them, 'a long wait and a leaflet' was my reply. Again, I was correct."

Mr Armitage was in A&E for more than eight hours.

After being discharged the former councillor received support from the Community Mental Health Team. He then moved into a friend's house.

One of Mr Armitage's final acts as a councillor was to talk about his experience in a bid to bring more awareness about suicide prevention in Northern Ireland.

"Since then, I have not worked and I am currently on Universal Credit. I still do find life tough, but I am in such a better place now," he said.

"With better resources to deal with my health and life, more connections with friends and positive changes in place, I know I am better equipped to carry on."

If you, or anyone close to you, is affected by any issues in this story, contact the Samaritans free on 116 123 or Lifeline on 080 8808 8000.

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