Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Let's back fans' bid to tackle mental health

Mental health issues are a big problem in Northern Ireland. Stock image posed by model
Mental health issues are a big problem in Northern Ireland. Stock image posed by model

Editor's Viewpoint

The family of 24-year-old Irish League footballer Jerry Thompson, who took his own life last week, is still searching for answers.

Like so many other families similarly bereaved, they wonder if they should have noticed his descent into the condition which led to his death.

What has been a big consolation is the amount of support they have received from football fans across the province, especially from three Glentoran supporters who have launched an initiative to get young men talking about their mental health problems.

Mental health issues are a big problem in Northern Ireland.

This is evident through the number of suicides which have taken place in recent years - 4,476 between 2000 and 2017 and 305 in 2017 alone.

Not all can be attributed to mental health problems, but most undoubtedly can.

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Men can be notoriously bad at seeking help for any health problem. The taboo surrounding mental health makes them even more tight-lipped.

That is why the initiative by the three young fans deserves the utmost commendation and support.

All admit they have suffered from anxiety and depression, and one even said he had considered taking his own life. They decided to take to social media and open a Twitter account, Irish League Mental Health Awareness. Already they have been inundated with accounts from other fans of how they have been affected.

Social media has its critics, and this is justified on occasion, but it is also a marvellous tool for reaching out to people who you will never meet and creating a forum which can act for good.

It gives people the opportunity to talk to others about their problems. It can also make them realise that they are not unique or alone and that help and support is out there if sought.

Of course, mental health needs greater investment, along with practically everything else in the health service at the moment, but initiatives which cost nothing but create a positive discussion platform can only help.

Those taking part are not judgemental, which should encourage more people to come forward.

There is also some statutory help available, and organisations like Lifeline can be just that - a lifeline.

This is a time of great grief for Jerry's family, but the fans' initiative may prove to be a positive legacy for a much-loved young man.

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