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Former 'Mr Gay Derry' is latest suicide victim

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Staff at a gay support group in Londonderry last night cancelled plans to close for holidays after a 20-year-old man became the eighth person to die by suicide in the area in recent weeks.

The Rainbow Project in Derry has issued a plea for anyone affected by the suicides to come and see them as police investigated the death of former 'Mr Gay Derry' Eamon Johnston.

Mr Johnston, who had trained as a hairdresser and had helped counsel other gay people, is the eighth person to die by suicide in Derry in the past two months alone.

An ambulance crew was called to the young man's flat at Maureen Avenue in the Abercorn Road area of Derry at around 6am yesterday.

He was taken to Altnagelvin where he was pronounced dead.

Police have confirmed that a crime is not suspected in relation to his death.

In a statement issued by the Rainbow Project yesterday, a spokesman said everyone's thoughts were "very much with the family and friends of Eamon ".

He added: "This event has sent waves of shock throughout both the gay and wider community, many of whom are struggling to comprehend what is happening.

"A sudden death of this nature traumatises communities in a way that is indescribable and causes immense emotional pain for those left behind."

He added: "We are acutely aware of the vulnerability of those that knew Eamon and the need for support at this time.

"We urge anyone for whom this is having an impact to come and talk to us in confidence.

"Our door is open to anyone who would like to talk; in fact the staff team in our Foyle centre are cancelling holiday arrangements and will be keeping the centre open over the bank holiday period to ensure that the opportunity to talk is available to all.

"It is vital that anyone - and we emphasise anyone - who is experiencing suicidal thoughts to talk to our staff or to any of the other support agencies."

A PSNI spokesman said: "The 20-year-old was conveyed to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

"Police are investigating the death on behalf of the coroner, however a crime is not suspected."

Four years ago this summer Eamon was crowned Mr Gay Derry and had been one of the favourites to win the Mr Gay UK title.

Back in August 2003 he spoke to the Belfast Telegraph about how his parents were really proud of him after he came out.

He said of winning the local title: "I was pretty nervous about the Gay UK thing initially but all the feedback and the voting has been really positive and I'd like to thank everyone for that.

"My feeling now is this: you have to be seen out there, you can't hide in a corner or we'll never get anywhere".

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