Belfast Telegraph

Mental health alert councillor Armitage 'overwhelmed' by support

By Suzanne Breen

An Alliance councillor who went missing has thanked people from across the political divide who united in a search to find him.

David Armitage said he was overwhelmed by the positive response on social media to his mental ill health, which had "developed into a very serious situation".

The east Belfast councillor was found by a couple who had seen appeals online for his whereabouts.

In a Facebook post yesterday, he said: "I am still very ill, but in a lot better shape than I was last week.

"It has been said that I have managed to unite loyalists, republicans, unionists, nationalists, liberals, Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, LGBT, straight, members of the Orange Order, as well as people from north, south, east and west Belfast.

"Maybe when we put people before political ideology we will get results.

"Maybe we have started to create a more united community."

Alliance leader Naomi Long and her husband Michael, who is the leader of the Alliance group at Belfast City Hall, had appealed on social media for help to find Mr Armitage when he went missing on August 19.

Mrs Long tweeted: "We need to locate him urgently.

"The constituency office is open from 3.30pm, if you can help us search. If you see him, contact me."

Mr Armitage was located later that day.

Politicians and supporters of all Northern Ireland's political parties offered Alliance their help.

Mr Armitage, who represents the Titanic area, said: "A big thank you to all who went out and looked for me, or reposted alerts and sent messages of support.

"I still can't process the fact that so many people would spend time looking for me, or worrying about me and 'liking' me!"

He continued: "Thank you to the Alliance Party for coordinating the search, providing care, and for Michael and Naomi for meeting me and taking me to hospital."

He thanked the couple who found him and had contacted the Longs and "talked and stayed with me", as well as the PSNI and medical staff. "A massive thank you to East Belfast Survivors of Suicide who have been providing valuable support over a number of weeks," he added.

Mr Armitage last night received dozens of messages from people on social media praising his courage on speaking out on mental health issues and wishing him well.

The councillor had posted a worrying message on Facebook on August 19 which led his friends and political colleagues to be concerned about his well-being. Calls for information on his whereabouts were shared online by Sinn Fein, Ulster Unionist, Green and SDLP politicians, and by DUP leader Arlene Foster.

Mrs Long expressed her gratitude for the cross-party assistance and praised social media as "a life-saver".

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