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Youth and politicians gather for forum on mental health crisis

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The summit, organised by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF) was called to address what organisers described as a "crisis" for young people and was an opportunity for their experiences and suggestions to be heard by local authorities (stock photo)

The summit, organised by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF) was called to address what organisers described as a "crisis" for young people and was an opportunity for their experiences and suggestions to be heard by local authorities (stock photo)

The summit, organised by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF) was called to address what organisers described as a "crisis" for young people and was an opportunity for their experiences and suggestions to be heard by local authorities (stock photo)

Young people voiced their concerns at an emergency mental health meeting held yesterday.

The summit, organised by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF) was called to address what organisers described as a "crisis" for young people and was an opportunity for their experiences and suggestions to be heard by local authorities.

The panel included Seamus Mullen from the Public Health Agency and the NIYF's political youth forum; People Before Profit councillor Fiona Ferguson; Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle; Sinn Fein's Orlaithi Flynn; Green councillor Malachai O'Hara; UUP MLA Mike Nesbitt, SDLP councillor Paul McCusker and Green MLA Rachel Woods.

One youth worker, Natalie Corbett, spoke about how she had spent hours in A&E trying to get help for one young person.

She said: "Recently my role has evolved to helping kids in hospital. This month has brought a lot of mixed feelings of anger and frustration as mental health services were denied to someone who needed it."

Strangford MLA Mr Nesbitt told the group he is positive his colleague, Health Minister Robin Swann, will take action: "I've told the Health Minister to do for mental health what he did for the nurses. It's now or never."

An emotional plea was made by Philip McTaggart, founder of Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-harm (PIPS). His son, also called Philip, took his own life in 2003.

He said: "We are angry that it's been 17 years and nothing has changed."

Mr McTaggart said he spent five weeks in and out of hospital trying to access care for Deaghlan Cole. The 22-year-old died earlier this month following a drug overdose.

The NIYF is planning to hold another meeting in a few months to "keep the momentum".

Oisin-Tomas O Raghallaigh (19), vice chair of the meeting, said: "We can work together to make change, we don't want to see young people dying."

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