A youth group has called for a mental health emergency to be declared over what it is describing as a teenage suicide crisis.
The Northern Ireland Youth Forum said the Christmas and New Year period had been “one of the worst witnessed”.
Ahead of an emergency meeting today, its director Chris Quinn said: “This has been going on for weeks; I myself have spent a number of hours in hospitals waiting with young people in need of help. My staff and I have been on the end of the phone constantly.
“I’ve been on top of organisations begging to get help for these young people. We’re telling them to speak out, but then they’ve nowhere to turn to when waiting lists are 10-12 weeks long – it’s not good enough.”
Today’s meeting will include young people, family members and youth and community workers who have experienced the impact of mental health, suicide and self-harm.
Colette Cole, the mother of Deaglan Cole, will be attending. Her 22-year-old son died earlier this month following a battle with drug addiction.
Phil Glennon, the head of operations at NIYF, had previously worked with Deaglan.
He said: “Addictions like alcohol, drugs, gambling and shopping are used to heal trauma. Look at where we’re from, it’s complex with issues of sectarianism, poverty and homelessness.
“All these roads lead to mental health.”
He added: “Less than 1% is spent on the mental health budget for children, it’s atrocious. Our kids are in crisis.”