A Derry MLA has spoken publicly for the first time about the recent sudden death of his sister.
Mark H Durkan’s sister, Gay (28), died at her Edanmount Park home on September 26.
The SDLP politician referred to his sister’s death at yesterday’s launch of a campaign to tackle the stigma associated with mental illness.
“Stigma is very powerful - but the fear of stigma is even worse,” he told the NIAMH event at Stormont.
He added: “This day two weeks ago, I attended the funeral of a young lady of 28. She had a good job working as a health professional, was aware of the services available to help people suffering from depression and had even directed others towards these in the past.
“She had a loving family and a great circle of friends, but her fear of stigma was so powerful that she wouldn’t admit her unhappiness, never mind her illness.
“In fact, in retrospect, such was her outgoing and bubbly nature; you would think she actually tried to conceal it. That lady was my sister.”
Mr. Durkan argued that mental health must be taken as seriously as physical health.
“Mental illness costs about £4 billion per year here, yet mental health services are currently underfunded by about 30% and we have up to 30% higher levels of psychiatric morbidity than other regions in these islands,” he said.