Caption: Martina McIlkenny PIPS Charity, Jo Murphy Lighthouse Ireland, Stephen Barr Start 360, Claire Flynn East Belfast Community Development Association, Mary Lou McDonald TD, Pat Buckley TD, Irene Sherry Ashton Community Trust, Phil McTaggart Mindskills, Jean Fox Bridge of Hope. Back Row: Ronan McGinley Start 360, Gerard Rice LORAG, Áine Magee Bridge of Hope, Peter McBride NIAMH.
Mary Lou McDonald, Deputy Sinn Fein Party Leader and all-Ireland Spokesperson on Mental Health & Suicide Prevention met with community groups today at the offices of Bridge of Hope, a department of Ashton Community Trust.
Monday’s meeting in North Belfast involved TD Mary Lou McDonald and Cork TD Pat Buckley hearing views from community sector representatives working on suicide prevention across the city.
Speaking after the meeting Irene Sherry and Stephen Barr from the Belfast Forum for Suicide Prevention said they were delighted to meet with the Sinn Fein TDs and highlight recent community efforts to reenergize hearts and minds around suicide prevention.
“Suicide claimed the lives of 55 people in Belfast last year and so far this year we know even more families have lost loved ones. Our efforts to establish a cross departmental community focused task force have been building in recent months and we are very keen to see this move forward. It was extremely worthwhile to hear from Mary Lou and Pat around efforts across the island of Ireland nationally and share our experiences locally.”
Mary Lou McDonald TD added: “It was a very useful and informative meeting. Mental health and suicide knows no boundaries of class or political allegiance. As a collective community we need to work together and learn from eachother and support eachother in the work that lies ahead. The challenges are considerable but we have the talent and energy in the community to make a huge difference. We need a joined up mental health strategy, we need proper resourcing, fresh thinking and political will to make the change. These changes affect very community in every town, in very village and every city right across Ireland, so individuals and families who have struggled with mental health or loss by suicide must remember they are not on their own.”
Pat Buckley TD added: “It was a frank, open and honest meeting. It was certainly educational and of benefit to both sides. It does instil a sense of determination to drive positive mental health, raise awareness and bring communities together and remember there is no colour, class, creed religion or politics when it comes to suicide. It affects us all.”
Click below to view video of Mary Lou outside Bridge of Hope taken by Philip McTaggart, Mindskills.