Gary Lightbody angry at politicians on mental health

By Niall McCracken

media captionThe singer has previously spoken about his own battles with depression

Snow Patrol star Gary Lightbody says he feels "angry" that Northern Ireland has no devolved government while mental health issues remain a problem.

Northern Ireland has the highest suicide rate in the UK.

In an interview with BBC News NI, he said: "I feel angry that we as a people have been ignored and abandoned by the people that really should be keeping these things running for all of us.

"It's an unforgiveable act to leave a country unmanned for so long and we are at the behest of the winds at the moment and I hope something is resolved quickly.

"It's a situation where everybody loses because its people's lives that are at stake."

Power-sharing between the parties at Stormont collapsed in January 2017.

The publication of a suicide prevention strategy document has been delayed by the deadlock at Stormont.

Northern Ireland's chief medical officer has previously stressed that help is still available and the Department of Health says parts of the strategy are being funded separately and are commencing.

'Collective trauma'

The Snow Patrol star was speaking to BBC News NI during a visit to Belfast to receive the Northern Ireland Music Prize.

He has been candid about his own mental health problems and his struggles with depression in the past.

He hopes his words will encourage others to be open too.

"I was slightly nervous about talking about it because I didn't know if it was going to push people away," he said.

"It's all the darkest parts of myself which I've always hidden from people, which is part of the problem.

"I found that talking about it has helped me and I've also heard from people, I get actual letters in the post, which is extraordinary in this day and age, from people saying thanks for talking about it because it helped me talk about it too."

More people in Northern Ireland have taken their own lives since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 than died in the entirety of the Troubles, statistics show.

image captionThe Snow Patrol singer was recently recognised with the Northern Ireland Music Prize

Lightbody said two of his friends had taken their own lives this year, adding that the wider statistics speak for themselves.

"I'm not an expert, but in Northern Ireland we have a collective trauma that we went through in this country that is undeniable, whether you were affected directly or indirectly, there is some trauma that is still inside us all that we haven't really come to terms with," he said.

"The latest generation have grown up in peace time, but it's not a completely solid peace, there are still divisions in our country.

"There is still anger and fear and I think that has something to do with why the numbers are bigger here."

The 42-year-old believes local politicians have an important role in raising awareness about mental health and suicide.

Commenting on the continuing Stormont deadlock, he said: "It feels like ego and posturing is keeping people from getting in a room together, I don't have any skin in the game politically, I am for humanity."

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: "It is important to emphasise that help and support are available; and that work is ongoing to further develop service provision on mental health."

Where to get help

If you are in the UK, you can call the Samaritans on 116123 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.

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