Mental health strategy must be Stormont priority: SDLP
The deputy leader of the SDLP has called for an urgent plan to address Northern Ireland's spiralling mental health crisis.
Nichola Mallon said that a mental health action plan must be a priority for a new Assembly and Executive as more and more young people face despair.
The North Belfast MLA said that all parties are concerned and should come together to drive forward a strategy that will make a difference to the lives of people struggling with mental health or addiction issues.
Her comments come following a devastating few weeks over the Christmas and New Year period for a number of grief-stricken families across Northern Ireland who are now facing 2020 without a loved one.
On December 30 last year, former barman from Ballymena Christian Grey (29) passed away just hours after posting a heartbreaking description of his mental health battle on Facebook.
The former Ballymena Academy and Cambridge House Grammar School pupil would have turned 30 on New Year's Eve.
Just three days ago, 11-year-old Cillian Draine from north Belfast, who was a P7 pupil at St Therese of Lisieux on the Antrim Road, died suddenly. He is due to be laid to rest tomorrow.
"This has been a harrowing week for too many families with so many young lives lost," Mrs Mallon said.
"Condolences and words of comfort aren't enough. We have to be honest, admit that there is a mental health crisis affecting a new generation and come together with a determination to do something about it.
"It's clear to me that a Mental Health Action Plan needs to be an urgent priority for a new Assembly and Executive. We are failing far too many vulnerable young people.
"I will make this a personal political priority and I know that people in all parties will make a similar commitment. It's time to take action on the mental health crisis."
Mental health campaigners rallied on Saturday to call for politicians to restore Stormont and tackle the growing crisis. The Strike For Mental Health at Cornmarket, Belfast, was organised by lobby group Pure Mental and attended by over 70 people.
If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. You will receive immediate support on the phone and follow-up support if necessary