Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Mairead's tragic death emphasises the importance of putting more investment into our mental health services

Mairead O'Neill
Mairead O'Neill

Editor's Viewpoint

It would take a heart of stone not to be moved by our interview today with the boyfriend of Belfast model Mairead O'Neill, who took her own life. To those who didn't really know her she had everything, but deep in the recesses of her mind lurked feelings that she could not fight, even with the help of her boyfriend, brother and sister.

She had suffered poor mental health for many years and the death of her beloved mother 10 months before she took her own life exacerbated her problems. How dreadful it was for her boyfriend, brother and sister to get a worrying text from her which sent them racing to her home, but too late to save her.

Often, relatives of those who succumb to their mental health problems complain of lack of facilities, help or even simple understanding, but Mairead was surrounded by people who loved her, were aware of her problems and were trying to help her, but even that was not enough.

It has been repeated many times in this newspaper that mental health requires more resources directed towards it. Those who work in that discipline do tremendous work, but the odds are stacked against them because of lack of facilities, investment and ability to retain staff.

Unlike physical illnesses, which are often readily apparent to even the untrained eye, poor mental health is an unseen cancer eating away at a person's self-worth, causing them to become depressed and feel that life holds no worthwhile future for them.

Mairead's boyfriend's plan to create a gym programme to help those feeling challenged by mental health problems could work wonders as an accessory to professional help.

Sadly, like so many scores of other vital decisions, improving mental health provision will only occur if devolution is restored or an alternative form of governance found. It is shameful that more than two years have elapsed since the Executive collapsed and that the politicians can continue to avoid public pressure to return to the work for which they are still being paid.

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