Mental health app launched following suicides and drug deaths

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Like many communities in Northern Ireland - the wider Ballymena area has been affected by suicide and drugs.

Dr Martin McNeely, the minister at Ballykeel Presbyterian Church said there had been a spate of suicides and drugs deaths in the past few months.

He says while the reasons for them were complex he would use the word "crisis" to describe the situation.

"It has such a deep impact on the wider community in which we all live, and it's long lasting," he said.

Image caption Dr Martin McNeely said recent deaths had sparked a crisis

In a response to recent events, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has launched the Here 2 Help smartphone app.

It's free to download and contains contact information and reading material for people who find themselves struggling with everything from substance abuse and suicidal thoughts, to coping with bereavement and advice on claiming benefits.

Speaking at a mental health roadshow in Ballymena held to launch the app, Demi Laverty said it could have helped her when she was dealing with a prescription drug addiction two years ago.

"The suicide and death rate due to drugs here - I've never seen it like that before," she said.

"I can at least count five people on my hand who I know personally.

"This app is revolutionary, they've brought mental health to the 21st century."

Image caption Demi Laverty said the app could have helped her when she was dealing with a prescription drugs addiction

Teresa Burke from Garvagh lost her 22-year-old son Kealan to a methadone overdose in 2009.

"When Kealan died 11 years ago there was nothing like that at the time," she said.

"Maybe if something like the app had have been there he could have been directed to it and hopefully got some help from it.

"People say to me that Kealan's life was a waste but I don't think that. I think he was put on this earth to warn others not to follow the same path."

Image caption Teresa Burke from Garvagh lost her 22-year-old son Kealan to a methadone overdose in 2009.

Anne Donaghy, the chief executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, said: "There are far too many people who lose their life through mental health illness.

"For me, dealing with mental health begins at a community level.

"Councils have been given a new role to community plan across their borough - for me, it is my job to make sure people have access to the right information and telephone numbers."

Health Minister Robin Swann also attended the event.

He said: "Since taking over as health minister, I've made the issue of mental health one of my key priorities.

"What we have here today is different sectors coming together to bring forward solutions to the challenges in mental health that we have. It's a great example of the partnership working that we've been looking for."

Mr Swann said the Here 2 Help app could be rolled out across all communities.

"We often hear of the negatives of social media, but here we have an app that can provide a useful voice and can provide a signposting facility that young people can access when they need it," he said.

If you've been affected by issues raised in this video, there is information and support available on BBC Action Line .