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Lives on the line

Mental health is a major issue for NI, with many struggling through dark times. Credit: Presseye

I was asked to write a blog about anything I wanted. And while the return of Love Island and Megxit may be easy and popular fodder, the truth is I wanted to write about something very real and very sad and which affects more people than everyone likes to admit.

Depression is something that one in four of us struggle with at some stage in our lives. For some it is fleeting, for others, it never goes away and tragically there are others so lost in their darkest hour that they take the most drastic action of all.

Since the start of the New Year, far too many lives have been lost, many of which were only half lived. The aftermath, grieving families left asking is there anything they could have done.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of Northern Ireland’s mental health crisis is how many people, children included, are going down the darkest road of all.

Messages of hope have previously been placed at Cavehill in Belfast and Foyle Bridge in Londonderry. Credit: UTV

And that takes me to conversations I’ve had with a number of people over the last few weeks - one, a well-known priest who has officiated at many funerals for those who’ve died by suicide down the years.

We spoke about an issue we’ve talked about over and over. The documentaries we’ve worked on, on that subject, and his call some years ago for a Mental Health Tsar.

The sad situation is, little seems to have changed and you would be forgiven for thinking things are getting worse.

A few days ago, there was a palpable sense of relief that the Northern Ireland Assembly had got back to doing what it was meant to.

The challenges the new ministers face are nothing short of immense. And perhaps the man with the biggest in-tray is Ulster Unionist Health Minister Robin Swann.

A pay dispute and waiting lists stand out. There will also be a new mental health strategy, and there have been a few already.

Its success will not be judged by fine and worthy words, but rather in tears not shed and lives not lost.

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If you would like to contact me about a story, please email: sharon.oneill@itv.com