Disease of depression

By Staff Reporter

There is rarely a week passes in this newspaper office where we do not speak to someone on the issue of mental health: terrified families; dedicated campaigners; overworked frontline staff or press officers for the bean counters, all are part and parcel of reporting in North Belfast.

This week yet again we see why that is so as another grief stricken Antrim Road family laid their beloved son to rest.

Sometimes in these cases we hear of victims’ struggle with drugs and how their poisons altered their minds, of the desperation of lives without opportunities, perhaps existences without love.

But so too do we hear of tragedies such as that which has befallen the Collins family: an illness that could have been treated but which led to a young man’s death.

Brendan Collins’ father could not have put it more starkly, “…depression is killing people as efficiently as cancer”. His observation too that if your illness is “inside your head then you are on your own” is one that is echoed by our indefatigable suicide awareness campaigners, among them those to whom Brendan turned for help.

But while these dedicated men and women – many of whom have suffered the same catastrophic bereavement as the Collins family – are left unfunded, their tasks divided between helping the  troubled and ensuring their own financial survival, those in despair are again being failed. And while the hospitals turn away the troubled and hard-fought for procedures are ignored, while meagre services remain difficult to access while others are not available at all, then the depressed and anguished among us die and their families left to ask why.

Tonight over one hundred people will walk across hot coals as part of yet another fantastic fundraising effort by the suicide prevention charity PIPS. Each walker will have at least £100 sponsored money raised. Their efforts again prove how this community’s response to suicide and mental health issues has outstripped the feeble fumblings of those who are responsible for tackling this blight. Would that they felt the outrage and compassion of our firewalkers for the victims of this disease, its impact on families and across our wider community.

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