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Ligoniel lad reaches out to share his harrowing experiences

TOGETHER: Aidan McMeekin and Philip McTaggart from MindSkillz Training TOGETHER: Aidan McMeekin and Philip McTaggart from MindSkillz Training
By Conor McParland

A LIGONIEL teenager is hoping by sharing his own story about suicide and mental health matters that he can help others who are struggling with their own issues.
17-year-old Aidan McMeekin has suffered from poor mental health and depression since he was just 14-years-old.
However, his state of mind took a turn for the worse when he came close to taking his own life on a dark and wet night on Cave Hill last October.
“Since I was 14, I used to smoke a lot of grass and it made me really paranoid. It made me not want to leave the house and as a result, I felt really depressed,” he told the North Belfast News.
“A few days before the Cave Hill incident, I was pretty much done. I had given up and there was a lot of stuff going on. I just didn’t want to continue anymore.
“I was on anti-depressant tablets which made me not feel anything anymore, like fear. I wasn’t afraid anymore.”
As Aidan made his way to Cave Hill, he was spotted by Maighréad Ní Chonghaile, Principal of Gaelscoil Éanna, who immediately contacted well-known mental health campaigner Philip McTaggart of MindSkillz Training.
Aidan added: “In my eyes I was ready to go. I went up Cave Hill and a fear kicked in about what was going to happen after. It wasn’t the fear of dying but more, how was my family going to feel about it?
“Phil appeared behind me and stopped me from taking my own life. I never knew who he was until the day I met him but I am so grateful.”
A month later, Aidan lost a close friend to suicide but after seeing the impact it had on his family, he wants people to think about the pain and hurt caused to your own family as a result of losing a loved one to suicide.
Aidan is also using his own personal experience to talk to fellow young people.
“Soon after, I lost a friend to suicide in November. I saw the impact it had on his family and it really made me want to turn my life around,” he added.
“I still have my up and down days. I am still going and that is the main thing.
“I am helping others now. I go into schools and youth clubs talking about my own experiences and trying to deliver positive mental health.
“I also do a lot on social media, talking about how I have changed from wanting to commit suicide to now helping others.
“By the time I am 18, I want to try and be an all-round better person and fulfil my ambition to be a full-time youth worker.”
Asked what advice he would give to mental health sufferers, Aidan’s message is simple – talk.
“The main advice I would give to someone suffering from mental health issues is that you need to look beyond your own pain.
“Looking at the pain caused the family of my mate, it has scarred me ever since with thoughts of taking my own life. I would encourage people to use mentoring and counselling services, but more importantly, try and socialise.
“Enclosing yourself in your room is not the answer. I would encourage people to put the work in and you will change, even if you don’t notice it straight away.
“We need more funding for mental health here. There just isn’t enough put aside by the government, especially when we have the highest suicide rate in the whole of the UK. North and West Belfast are also the highest areas.
“If people don’t open their eyes and see that, there is something wrong. If that is not an emergency, then I don’t know what is.”
Philip McTaggart says Aidan’s story proves that when you talk, help will follow.
“I remember that day well because it was dark, rainy and foggy,” he explained.
“When Maighréad phoned me, I couldn’t initially find Aidan so I took a chance and went up to the top bit of Cave Hill and saw a dark figure and realised it was a young man.
“After some hesitation and just talking to him, he came down and we chatted all the way down to the car.
“By talking to him, I was able to then point him in the right direction of the help he needed. It proves that by talking to someone, then comes that link to help.
“I met him recently at a Public Health Agency protest in the city centre and he came up to me and said, you’re the man who saved me on the top of Cave Hill.
“It is absolutely fantastic that Aidan is now talking to other young people and trying to help them. It is vital to take part in mental health and suicide prevention training.”

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