Six young men have died from drug overdoses in Belfast in the last two weeks. They were all homeless.
One was Patrick McIlroy, a 27-year-old former mental health worker, who died on a Belfast street last Thursday. His cousin Martina McIlroy said her family was broken. The family said a secure drug and mental health facility was needed in order to support those in similar situations to Mr McIlroy.
Ms McIlroy told the BBC that her cousin had been sleeping rough for the last four years. “We helped him, Patrick tried to help himself and he just wasn’t at that level yet where he was ready to let go of it,” she said. “I think people don’t realise that they aren’t just addicts, they are ill and it needs to be treated as a mental illness. Because when you strip away the drugs and you strip away the addiction, it’s trauma and that’s what has led to these addictions.”
The latest figures on drugs-related deaths show that 218 people died from a drugs overdose in 2020.
“When we actually found out that Patrick was on the streets, that was soul-destroying,” Ms McIlroy said. “There were times when we were picking him up off the streets and we couldn’t bring him home because we have children and its two o’clock in the morning and we are driving around seeing where he could be.”
She added: “It was soul-destroying and, for him, he just couldn’t overcome it, so he then found more peace being on the street. He never got the chance to be the best version of himself, that’s the hardest part, and he was amazing.”