Northern Ireland news

Mother whose son (23) died from suspected overdose urges others to seek help

Sandra Kearns holds a photo of her 23-year-old son Conor, who died suddenly from a suspected accidental drugs overdose. Picture by Declan Roughan
Marie Louise McConville

THE mother of a 23-year-old man who died from a suspected accidental overdose three days before a friend's death in similar circumstances has urged others taking drugs to seek help.

Sandra Kearns, whose youngest son Conor was found dead at her home in Forkhill, Co Armagh, told The Irish News she is "in bits" and "cannot believe it".

Conor, originally from Bessbrook, had battled drug addiction for the past six years and suffered 15 accidental overdoses in that time.

He died on Sunday, three days before Camlough man Aidan McCabe (34) was found dead in a house in Bessbrook from a suspected overdose. His mother Siobhan also pleaded this week for young people to stay away from drugs.

Ms Kearns (50) said she took her son "everywhere for help" but drugs were available around every corner.

She said he started with cannabis at 17 but progressed to harder substances and had left rehab only six days before he died.

"It just changed Conor so much," she said.

"It changed him from a sweet, wee guy into a person I just didn't recognise."

Bessbrook man Conor Kearns (23), who died suddenly on Sunday from a suspected accidental drugs overdose. Photo: Declan Roughan

Ms Kearns said her son, who was buried on Friday, had been diagnosed with depression and struggled with his mental health.

"Whatever was out there, Conor took to get out of his pain, out of his head, out of his reality," she said.

"Towards the end he had nothing in him. He was the sweetest and the most thoughtful and had a big smile on but put the shop front up for everybody."

Ms Kearns pleaded with others taking drugs to "get help right now".

"I would say don't even start them. You are only lining someone else's pocket who doesn't care about you," she said.

"I don't blame anybody.

"If he couldn't get [drugs], a mate could get them. Community and police need to work together. Young ones need to be listened to a wee bit more. They are getting it tough. More help is needed.

"He was such a young chap, so much ahead of him and the struggles that he battled, you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. What it has done to the whole family, it is such a big loss. We are devastated. It's like walking about in another world. It's just so hard to believe.

"If this helps one person then Conor's death hasn't been in vain."

Sandra Kearns holds a photo of her 23-year-old son, Conor, who died suddenly from a suspected accidental drugs overdose. Sandra is pictured alongside Conor's father, Kevin. Photo: Declan Roughan

Conor's older brother Kevin said he is "heartbroken". Drugs had "destroyed" Conor, he said.

"He really wanted to get clean," he said.

"I think there needs to be a lot more done, more staff and more beds available. Mental health and addiction go hand in hand but if you go and see addiction services, they are not going to treat your mental health. They refer you to somebody else. I believe it should be joint."

Aidan McCabe (34) from Camlough, a friend of Conor Kearns, also died from a suspected drugs overdose this week

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