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More help needed for those struggling with mental health says family of Co Armagh man Gary Nelson

Armagh man Gary Nelson (34) wanted so much to enjoy life but struggled with his physical and mental health, says his family.

As they prepare for his funeral today (Friday) his family has praised Gary for the heroic way he dealt with 14 years of serious physical illness which ultimately became too much for him.

Born on May 10, 1988, Gary celebrated his 34 birthday just a few weeks before he died suddenly on Monday.

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He was born in Craigavon Hospital and lived most of his early life with his mum Fiona and granny Rita in Parknasilla in Aghagallon and with his father Malachy Quinn in Lurgan’s Shankill estate.

Gary Nelson who was originally from Aghagallon but who lived in Bleary, Craigavon. Mr Nelson died suddenly on Monday.

He attended Derrymore Primary School and St Paul’s Junior High School before moving to Lismore Comprehensive..

Gary would have been the first to say he was not a big fan of school. His mother said he left home in his school uniform and returned home in his school uniform but often he didn’t end up at school at all.

What he lacked in academic ability, he made up with kindness, generosity and a big heart.

Despite struggling for more than 14 years with the debilitating Colitis and later Crohn’s Disease, Gary tried hard to live life to the full.

Since he was aged 20 he had numerous surgeries to insert a stoma and then have it reversed for another bag and surgeries for hernias. He also had surgery on his eyes due to side effects from the Crohn’s Disease and most recently had surgery in January this year for another stoma.

Though he suffered years of constant pain Gary strived to live a normal life, working as a driver for the Southern Health Trust most recently.

He was a popular lad, very genuine, always the life and soul of the party and a trusted friend.

When his daughter Eireann was born in 2019 he was besotted, a doting father.

He was learning the guitar and had a strong passion for his Irish heritage, even going back to classes to learn the Irish language. He was a big rock fan but adored his cultural music and was a massive Celtic and Armagh fan.

But years of physical pain had taken its toll on Gary’s mental health.

He was well aware of how his mental health was important and regularly spoke about how important it was to talk. He needed help himself on two occasions when his family brought him back from the edge.

His sister Shauneen said: “Physically he had big battles and he really wanted to enjoy life. He was a popular lad but his poor health over the years had restricted him. He enjoyed everything he did and he really did want to love life. He wanted to be involved and to do things. But these battles were too much for him. His troubles are now gone. He has no more worries.”

Shauneen praised her mother and Gary’s father for all the help they gave to Gary throughout his struggles. Recently Gary had an image of his mother tattooed on his arm.

Gary was very open about his mental health and always encouraged people to talk about it.

He did a lot of charity also and did a charity abseil down the Europa Hotel in Belfast in aid of PIPS.

Shauneen said: “He did so much to help others. As a family we feel there is not enough support for people going through mental health issues. It is not fair the turmoil people are in and, when the die, the turmoil that people left behind are feeling. The number of suicides locally is terrible and more needs to be done to help young people.

“Even if you get a see a GP who refers you to a psychiatrist, you are just on a long waiting list. Something really needs to be done.

“Gary would have wanted his family to advocate for those suffering from mental health issues. We don’t want anyone else to go through this,” said Shauneen.

Requiem Mass will be held in St Paul’s Church today (Friday May 27) at 2pm with burial afterward in St Patrick’s Cemetery, Aghagallon.

He is the beloved son of Malachy and Fiona, loving stepson of Eamon and a dearly loved father of Éireann, cherished brother of Shauneen, Emma, Jamie, Matthew, and Shannon.

He will be sadly missed by his parents, daughter, sisters and brothers, nieces, nephews, Roisin, and entire family circle.

No flowers please with donations in lieu if desired to, PIPS Charity c/o McAlinden & Murtagh Funeral Directors, 2 North Street, Lurgan. T: 02838 324404

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