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  1. ITV Report

Calls for action after deaths linked to mental health

Deaglan Cole. Credit: UTV

Health Minister Robin Swann has said mental health, substance misuse and suicide are some of the “key priorities” for his department.

It comes after three deaths in a space of days in north Belfast were linked in one way or another to mental health.

Mr Swann says he intends to visit the area in the coming days to "discuss how we can all come together to make a real and lasting difference".

Deaglan Cole was the third young person to die in recent days.

The 22-year-old father had been troubled for years, but the tipping point came with the death of a friend just before Christmas.

His family thought he would be okay, but at a party just days after the New Year he descended into a drugs binge from which he wouldn’t survive.

“I can’t believe I’ve lost my child," said Colette Cole, Deaglan’s mother.

“I just thought ‘what a waste of a beautiful, beautiful child’. He was lovely. It broke my heart, I just wanted to lift him.”

Deaglan Cole's mother Colette. Credit: UTV

Deaglan was a pupil at Holy Cross Boys in Ardoyne.

It was initially thought 20 former pupils lost their lives to suicide or drugs, but staff checked again and it’s actually 27.

Principal Kevin McAreavey said: “As a community, bound and united in grief, we like to move forward in promoting positive mental health and there’s a lot of great organisations in this area who will run with this and who will make this better and I hope they do.”

Holy Cross School. Credit: UTV

Deaglan’s funeral took place on Friday at Holy Cross Church.

Well-known priest Father Gary Donegan didn't hold back, branding drug dealers ‘parasites’ - and he stands by every word he said.

“Basically they’re feeding off the actual most vulnerable people in society and Deaglan was one of those people,” he said.

“As his mother very bravely said, first and foremost he was an addict and he made the wrong choices in life.”

Colette Cole’s message for the new health minister was that urgent action must be taken.

“We need resources, we need action now, not six weeks down the line, not four and five hours waiting in hospitals to be seen by mental health teams,” she said.

“Something needs to be put in place now.”

Fr Gary Donegan. Credit: UTV

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Robin Swann said: “Mental health, substance misuse, and suicide are key priorities for my department, and for me personally.

“These issues have massive impact on individuals, families and communities right across Northern Ireland.

“We need to work hard to ensure that we address inequalities in health and support and empower our communities to address these issues.

“To do this we need to work together collectively across government departments, across the community and voluntary sector, with service users and those affected by these issues.”

He continued: "I intend to visit north Belfast in the near future to see first-hand the impact this is having on families and communities, and to discuss how we can all come together to make a real and lasting difference.”

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