A WEST Belfast teenager who has overcome mental health problems was one of the torchbearers to carry the Olympic flame on the last stage of its journey through Belfast last night.
GCSE student Niamh McHale, 15, from the St James’ area, carried the flame along Great Victoria Street as it made its way to its final destination to Belfast City Hall. Before that the torch had been carried along the Springfield and Grosvenor roads on the West Belfast leg of its journey.
The teenager, who is a competitive ice-skater for the Ulster Ice Skating Club and the Dundonald Skating Club, was chosen to be torchbearer by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games after her mum and sister secretly nominated her via Coca-Cola for her bravery in tackling her mental health issues head-on.
Niamh left the Beechcroft Child and Adolescent Mental Health Inpatient Unit at Forster Green Hospital in South Belfast in January where she was treated for eight months after attempting to take her own life on three occasions. The former St Louise’s Comprehensive College student, who is now studying for her GCSEs at the Dunlewey Education Centre, hopes to use her role as a torchbearer to inspire other people to seek help for mental health issues.
Speaking ahead of taking part in the Olympic Torch relay yesterday evening, Niamh said she was “nervous, but really excited”.
“There are going to be thousands of people watching me but my family and friends will be there to cheer me on,” she said. “I am doing this to help raise awareness of mental health issues and suicide, to let young people like me and anyone else out there know that there is help available if you need it.”
Meanwhile, Lagmore mum-of-three Sabrina McVeigh carried the Olympic Torch through Bangor on Sunday.
“My husband put me forward for it as I have been doing voluntary youth work since I was 15 when I had my eldest child,” said the 27-year-old. “I’ve volunteered with Barnardos, UKYV and this year I’m doing my OCN Level 2 & 3 in Youth Work. I’ve also done a lot around suicide prevention with PIPS as I lost my uncle to suicide.”
Sabrina was the last person to carry the torch through Bangor at around 7am on Sunday morning.
“Even at that early time people still came out to support us and the atmosphere was amazing.”