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Tragedies prompt Antrim council to launch mental health app

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Inspector Marc Riddell, Chief Inspector William Calderwood, PJ McAvoy, Chair of Ballymena North, Mayor Maureen Morrow, Jackie Patton of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, and Inspector Rory Bradley at the launch of the #Here2Help roadshow

Inspector Marc Riddell, Chief Inspector William Calderwood, PJ McAvoy, Chair of Ballymena North, Mayor Maureen Morrow, Jackie Patton of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, and Inspector Rory Bradley at the launch of the #Here2Help roadshow

Inspector Marc Riddell, Chief Inspector William Calderwood, PJ McAvoy, Chair of Ballymena North, Mayor Maureen Morrow, Jackie Patton of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, and Inspector Rory Bradley at the launch of the #Here2Help roadshow

A smartphone app is set to be launched by Mid and East Antrim Council as part of a major new mental health and well-being campaign following a spate of tragedies in the area.

The app has been developed to help local residents quickly access contact details for a range of support services available to them within the borough.

It will also provide support to anyone suffering from the misuse of drugs and alcohol.

The council teamed up with the PSNI, Public Health Agency and local community groups to produce the app which will be launched as part of their #Here2Help campaign, and will include a roadshow which is set to travel to schools in the area.

The area has suffered a number of tragic sudden deaths in recent months and in response a series of council motions were raised by elected members in order to try and help.

Earlier this month a Presbyterian minister in Co Antrim spoke of the "tangible wave of despair" that has hit Ballymena after a series of suicides and drug-related deaths.

Dr Martin McNeely from Ballykeel Church presided over the funeral of popular barman Christian Grey who took his own life last month, hours after a heartbreaking post about his mental health struggles on social media.

Within days the minister had buried another young man, also aged under 30, who died following a drug overdose.

It comes amid a mental health crisis in Northern Ireland, prompting Health Minister Robin Swann to say that he intends to hold a ministerial working group on suicide prevention "as soon as possible".

The council's app aims to provide helplines for users to get support instantly while also providing a wide range of links to reading materials that can help people in their time of need.

As part of the #Here2Help campaign, the council is aiming to promote the initiative on social media, as well as bus advertising and digital media to encourage people to download the app. It will be launched at the #Here2Help roadshow which will take place on Wednesday, February 12 at 10am in Ballymena North Business and Recreation Centre on the Cushendall Road.

The event is free and open to everyone. Speakers will include those directly affected by mental health and drug and alcohol issues in their families.

The event will also hear from those who found a way to turn their life around using the support services available on the app.

A reduced form of the roadshow will travel to all schools within the borough over the coming months, beginning in Carrickfergus on Thursday, February 13. Mayor, Councillor Maureen Morrow, said the council want to highlight the "vast amount of support" available to the community.

She said: "The Here2Help roadshow is an opportunity for us as a council to demonstrate to all our communities our commitment to helping and supporting them.

"We are listening and want to help in whatever way possible those who are affected by issues such as mental health and well-being and the very real dangers of drug and alcohol misuse."

PSNI Vulnerability Inspector Chief Inspector William Calderwood said: "This roadshow is extremely important as we continue to address the seriousness of these issues and we remain committed to working together to ensuring the most vulnerable in our society get the help and support they need.

"Recent figures released by NISRA on the number of deaths within this borough as a result of mental health issues and drugs and alcohol are staggering and we as a Police Service want to demonstrate that we are here to support the most vulnerable in our community," added CI Calderwood

To register to attend the free roadshow or if you would like to have the roadshow visit your school or community group, please contact lisa.thompson@midandeastantrim.gov.uk for further information.

Belfast Telegraph