Campaigners lay 305 football strips outside of Stormont to raise awareness of Suicide Prevention Day

305 sports jerseys were laid out to spell the word 'hope'

Over 300 football strips have been presented outside of Stormont Parliament Buildings to raise awareness of those who died by suicide last year.

Laid out to spell 'HOPE', the gesture from across the sporting community marks Suicide Prevention Day (September 10) and aims to raise awareness of mental health and suicide.

Each of the 305 strips represents a Northern Irish citizen who died by suicide in 2017.

Footballers, Rugby players and GAA stars were all present at the ceremony which took place yesterday, including Bolton Wanderers and Northern Ireland international Josh Magennis who said the cause was close to his heart.

He stated: "Many families have been affected by suicide, especially in Northern Ireland. It's actually an epidemic,"

"I personally have had friends and have known people who have unfortunately taken their life."

'We wanted to send a positive message'

Joe Donnelly, of mental health group Tackling Awareness of Mental Health Issues (TAMHI), explained the need for a positive message.

“Rather than focus on the negative, we wanted to send a positive message of unity where, at grassroots level, we are all united in doing more for mental health.

“The sporting community is united for mental health and we worked together to get tops, we worked together to lay out HOPE as a positive message and we walked together in unity to show we care.

“Our message is simple to our political leaders – get back in power and let’s start saving lives.

“We can all work together and hopefully next year we will struggle to spell out ‘hope’ as lives will be saved.”

'A message of hope tinged with sadness'

Jamie Butler of the UUP and Nichola Mallon of the SDLP were both in attendance at the event.

Speaking to ITV, Ms. Mallon suggested that political parties could learn from the sporting communities message of unity.

"I think today was very moving and I've taken away a message of hope" she said. "But that hope was tinged with a bit of sadness because we have seen the sports come together, we have seen families come together, I just really wish our politicians could come together and do something about this."

Butler, meanwhile stated: "There is the Protect Life 2 Strategy that is sitting on the shelf that a minister could bring off tomorrow if we were here (in Stormont)."

For support visit Samaritans at samaritans.org or call them on 116 123

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