The Harry-Meghan interview with Oprah has produced an orgy of publicity, raising serious issues about racism, mental health, the behaviour of the media, privilege and the British Monarchy. The show is deeply dividing people as to what side they’re on. To be honest, although I did watch the programme, it scarcely matters to me which of the parties you’re siding with.

I was, however, horrified by some of the reaction to the revelation by Meghan Markle that she struggled with mental health problems and had suicidal thoughts.

Arch critic

Her arch critic, Piers Morgan dismissed that and said he didn’t believe her, and some of the vitriol directed at her indicates a lot of her detractors agree with him.

To be called a liar at any time is difficult to take, but when you open up about mental health problems, I can’t think of anything worse; and Morgan’s insensitivity (to say the least) has dangerous ramifications.

The fragility of mental health is such that people have great difficulty in opening up, despite the widespread encouragement nowadays to do just that.

So the idea that you might be accused of lying just diminishes your self-worth further and someone already feeling embarrassed could go into their shell even more.

I know that people who are going through difficult times can go through further hell when people won’t give any credence to their story.

7.7 million followers

And as for someone in the DUP branding her a “drama queen and attention seeker”, it really beggars belief. If you listened to Morgan and agreed that Markle was lying, you should be very careful.

As someone posted: “Meghan isn’t going to see you commenting that you don’t believe her. But your friends who have felt suicidal will.”

Morgan has an incredible 7.7million followers on Twitter and his controversial, abrasive style has gained him a very high profile on GMB; so his callous and cavalier attitude to Markle’s mental health revelations was the height of irresponsibility, even though he did try to (sort of) squirm out of it the following day.

In a fast moving story, Morgan then left ITV and the GMB show on Tuesday evening after a meeting with executives as it was also revealed that Ofcom had received 41,000 complaints about him.

Let me be clear, I thought Morgan did a great job in holding this shambolic Government to account over its incompetent handling of Covid. But I did find his comments about mental health beyond the pale.

But at least we’re having a very public discussion about suicide and mental health now.

That is good, because a really open conversation is needed, not least here in Northern Ireland where the issue continues to cause great pain and distress.

Remarkably, the number of suicides in Northern Ireland are four times those of road deaths; in 2018, there were 307 suicides which is double the number in England.


And this trend has been going on for some time, with the number of people taking their own lives since 2000 away above the number of people who died due to the violence of the Troubles.

The statistics are shocking; but to be honest, behind the figures it is even more shocking to think of the devastation of families left behind.

Suicide is no respecter of class, creed, age or anything else.

Even in the last year, I’ve read in this newspaper about the lives taken, including some of the loveliest people and the tributes paid to them by their friends and families were so touching.

Some of these people I’d never even met, but even I was affected when reading about them, so I cannot imagine how those close to them felt.

I’ve learned from a reader that she was prompted to write to all our MLAs last year, stating that one of the people who died was “beautiful, loving, witty and bubbly…..but she needed help.”

The writer asked our Assembly members to consider measures going forward, but received only 11 replies and wrote again.

She included suggestions about making help numbers easier and television campaigns similar to the ones we see about road deaths.

Four years ago, on the Scope NI website, Pat McCreevy wrote an article questioning whether there was the political will in Northern Ireland to tackle suicide.

Mr McGreevy is Secretary of the ‘Suicide Down to Zero’ charity, a wonderful title for an organisation.

This time last year, when Stormont eventually got up and running after three years of stalement, the Health Minister, Robin Swann said suicide prevention is a priority.

Continued lockdown

Since coming into the position, Mr. Swann has clearly had his hands full in dealing with the Covid crisis, and it may be that people consider it’s been so full on that other health issues have to wait. That in itself is part of the problem because it’s clear that the policy of continued lockdown is heightening mental health issues.

That is in the context of a continuing failure by Stormont to fully grasp the nettle of a mental health action plan for at least two decades in response to public concerns about suicide, and the Suicide Prevention Strategy updated in September 2019 and now known as Protect Life 2 needs to be implemented. Scotland has been much more proactive than us, for example.

More aware

I think we’re more aware now as a society and there are, for example, articles highlighting the issue on the Scope NI website And indeed, there are organisations to help.

Much, much more is needed, however, and we all need to become far more aware and greater leadership is needed from the Department of Health.

As individuals we need to play our part also, even by being a more caring society and looking after vulnerable people.

In that 2017 article, Pat McGreevy wrote: “Suicide is a taboo subject surrounded by a lot of stigma. Dr. Thomas Joiner, an eminent researcher in the area of suicide, has pointed to the two elements of stigma – fear and ignorance. He believes it essential that we keep the fear that surrounds suicide but shatter the ignorance.”

So, he says, we should be talking about it and dispel the myths, we should have the difficult conversations. We need a public information campaign about the causes of suicide and how we can help.

To that end, I commend the editor of the Impartial Reporter and the coverage in this week’s newspaper of mental health issues.

We can all be enraged by Piers Morgan and others who have dangerously undermined the need for people to seek help. But we shouldn’t turn our heads away and stay silent either.


Samaritans / Tel:116 123 / / E:

Aisling Centre, Enniskillen / Tel: 028 6632 5811 /

Action Mental Health/New Horizons / Tel: 028 6632 3630 /

Cruse Bereavement Care / Tel: 0808 808 1677, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm /

MIND / Tel: 0300 123 3393 /

Fermanagh Womens Aid / Tel: 028 6632 8898

Community Advice Fermanagh / Tel: 0739 492 1753 /


Nexus NI / Tel: 028 6632 0046 /

Lifeline / Tel: 0808 808 8000 /

Fermanagh House, Connect Fermanagh / Tel: 028 6632 0230 /

Mindwise / Tel: 0777 322 1967 / E: