A Ballynahinch teenager who battled mental health issues celebrated his 16th birthday with the ultimate party – a date with the Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace.

Cathal McCann, who turns 16 this week and attends St Malachy’s School (pictured back row far left) was invited to the Palace after he was helped through a mental health crisis by Action for Children Northern Ireland’s Blues Programme.

His mum Mandy said: “He wouldn’t even be here today if it wasn’t for Action for Children so to celebrate by meeting Duchess Kate is the icing on the cake.”
Action for Children NI delivers The Blues Programme to schools throughout the country to help young people suffering with mental health issues.

Mandy added: “He was very low and even self-harming. When Action for Children reached out to help it was a game changer. He’s a different person now and loving life.”

Cathal attended the special day as part of Action for Children and the Royal Photographic Society’s collaboration to deliver a photography workshop for children in which the Duchess of Cambridge has been sharing her love of photography.

The Duchess is also Patron of Action for Children which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

During the workshop the Duchess explored camera techniques with children aged between nine and 18 supported by Action for Children during the session at the charity’s Warren Park residential home in Surrey.

She spent more than an hour with 11 young people from across the UK and two distinguished photographers – RPS Honorary Fellows Jillian Edelstein and Harry Borden. Some of the children already have an interest in photography, whilst for many others this was a first exciting foray into photography, which is known to be a therapeutic and enabling activity for many people.

As she arrived, the Duchess was shown black and white photos from the Action for Children archives of some of the first children helped by the charity when it was founded near Waterloo in 1869 along with others depicting the history of the Royal Photographic Society, also founded in a similar period.

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