All posts by actionmentalhealth

Get your hamper out for the Great Big Purple Picnic!

This year, for the very first time, Action Mental Health is inviting you to host a ‘Great Big Purple Picnic’ during Mental Health Awareness Week.

Between 14th and 20th May 2018 we want everyone to get involved, to help raise awareness of positive mental health and also to raise vital funds to help support our work across Northern Ireland.

Most of all we want you to have a bit of fun while doing it.

We’re asking schools, businesses, community groups, families and friends to get their picnic hampers and blankets out and join in the fundraising fun.

The Great Big Purple Picnic is one of the many initiatives organised by AMH to help raise awareness of positive mental health and also vital funds to help support our work across Northern Ireland.

The focus for the Great Big Purple Picnic is quite simply about giving people a way to improve their knowledge of positive mental health and also a way to improve their mental wellbeing.

By hosting your very own Great Big Purple Picnic you and your guests will be actively engaging in the Five Ways to Wellbeing: connecting with those around you; being active, by choosing one of Northern Ireland’s picturesque settings to host your picnic and combining it was a nice walk; taking notice, by just taking time out to enjoy the moment; keep learning, by thinking of healthy food options for your picnic to help maintain a healthy body for a healthy mind; and by giving the funds you raise to AMH which aims to change the lives of those living with mental ill-health and promote resilience and wellbeing to future generations.

All you have to do is to choose a date, a venue – indoors or outdoors, in the garden, at home, school or work – and then invite your friends to your Great Big Purple Picnic. But don’t forget to think purple: whether it’s purple bunting, purple picnic blankets, purple wigs or purple drinks, it’s up to you!

Download one of our fundraising & information packs (see below), it’s full of ideas and information on how to organise your Great Big Purple Picnic. In the packs you’ll find hints and tips as well as promotional materials such as posters to advertise your picnic, printed placemats and purple bunting to use at your picnic and also materials to help you create your own collection boxes.

Be sure to get in touch and let us know what you have planned – simply fill in the registration form included in the pack and return it to us by emailing If you have any questions or queries, please do call us on 028 9182 8494.

Thank you for your support!

Download your pack now.


Schools or Corporate/Organisations)


The generous pupils and staff at Royal School Dungannon have raised over £1100 in the past two years Action Mental Health.

This week the school presented AMH with a cheque for £746.35 after participating in a number of the charity’s MensSana programmes which promote positive mental health and resilience to all ages, including primary and secondary level school children.

The school has and continues to avail of the service which also provides workshops for parents and teachers to further support pupils’ emotional well-being. The workshops are provided free of charge to participants. The school’s generous gift follows a similar gesture last year when it raised £377.90 for AMH, bringing their total fundraising efforts to £1124.25. The school raised the money through a variety of activities and events, including hosting a breakfast following the school’s sixth form formal and non-uniform days.

Cherith Edgar from Action Mental Health’s MensSana team said: “We are delighted to receive such a generous boost to the MensSana programme, for the second year running from Royal School Dungannon. “The school has an excellent pastoral care ethos and we are very happy to support this by providing the many activities and workshops offered through MensSana. We look forward to our continued partnership working with The Royal School Dungannon.  Please contact us if you are interested in booking workshops for your school or community group.”

“Ha! Take that Art Teacher!

AMH New Horizons, through it’s Working It Out project, offers clients the opportunity to try work placements.  Heather tells us how she is getting on.

My first day here in AMH in Foyle, I think I had at least one or two panic attacks.  As I settled in, I found that I was very aware that I was happy to stay here.  At the beginning of my second year, one thing cropped up that I wasn’t expecting – work placement!  AMH can become this little bubble world and so the idea of doing something both scared and excited me.

Working with Valerie (AMH Employment Officer) made things easier as she explained the process of applying for a placement and helped me to fill in the application form.  It was a process I don’t think I was ready for to be honest.  After some searching, discussion and phone calls, Valerie found me a placement at LCDI (Limavady Community Development Initiative) at Roe Valley Hospital.  Once a week I travel to Limavady where I teach a craft class at the Head Trauma Daycare Unit.  Crafts have always seemed to be a passion of mine and getting to share that passion in my placement has been a complete joy.  My art teacher in high school had told my father that I was too slow to do art GCSE.  Ha! Take that art teacher!

Valerie helped me to go through the process of meeting my clients and has visited me in my placement.  She’s always ready to have a quick word to see how I’m getting on and chasing me to ensure I have done everything needed to get my placement started.  I wish her the very best in the future as she is leaving us, but also wish Laura the very best now she is here.  Don’t be afraid of change.  I have found that my placement is fantastic both for me and for whatever I hope to achieve in the future.

This project is part-funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014-2020 and the Department for the Economy.

AMH welcomes budget boost but reiterates call for strategy and mental health champion

ACTION Mental Health has welcomed the Secretary of State’s reported budgetary commitment of £30million towards Northern Ireland’s beleaguered mental health and wellbeing services.

The news follows a visit to Westminster last month by Together for You, a group of Northern Ireland’s leading mental health charities – including Action Mental Health.  The delegation also included The Mental Health Foundation, Royal College of Psychiatrists and Ulster University.

They were highlighting the crisis in mental health in Northern Ireland which has resulted in more people dying by suicide since the Belfast Agreement than were killed during the Troubles.

Action Mental Health Chief Executive David Babington issued a cautious welcome for the funding boost but said ambiguity surrounded the level of funding to be allocated to mental health. He noted that the original figure was to be £50m, but that yesterday’s reported figure for mental health fell short of that by £20m.

He said the uncertainty highlighted the need for a clear strategic plan for mental health and moreover for a mental health champion to steer services and investment to the areas most in need.

“In principal it is great that mental health pressures are being recognised, but we need clarity. Last month we went to Westminster to meet MPs to discuss among other things the £50m promised to Northern Ireland’s mental health services.

“We need to urgently meet with the Secretary of State in the absence of a functioning local executive, to discuss how this funding is allocated and other strategic priorities in order to continue this momentum.

“Obviously £50m isn’t going to cure everything but it is a start in the right direction and what we need is a clear and transparent ten year strategic plan and also a mental health champion to oversee this.”

Is your Mum one in a million?

Then here’s your chance to say thank you!

 As we look ahead to Mother’s Day this Sunday, it’s a great opportunity for Mums of all ages to get off the relentless conveyor belt of motherhood and put themselves first.

Taking time out and having even five minutes of ‘me time’ – can be really good for your mental health.

A Mum will always be her kids’ most ardent supporter, confidante and friend.

So this year why not nominate your Mum to receive a special Mother’s Day treat – a £50 voucher from our partner, Victoria Square, Belfast.

The nominee doesn’t even have to be your own Mum, but can be someone who is the next best thing, whether related or not.

Simply follow us on Facebook tell us why your ‘Mum’ deserves this special prize. Just like and comment on the Facebook post and we’ll select a worthy winner by 5pm on Monday 12th March 2018.

T&Cs apply. NB This is not promotion is not connected or associated with Facebook. Only comments on this facebook post will be entered into the draw.

Liam sings the praises of AMH New Horizons Foyle

“My name is Liam Doherty and I was referred to AMH New Horizons Foyle as I was experiencing severe memory problems.

When I was referred, I had no idea what to expect, but I have been pleasantly surprised.

Since being here for 1 year, I have learned lots of new IT skills.  I completed an introduction to IT and an online qualification and have received a certificate for my efforts.  I have also had the opportunity to take part in several other beneficial courses, including stress management and confidence building.   Both have helped me immensely, I have learnt how to identify stresses and triggers and acquired new skills to manage these.

I attended the cycling course which was great fun and I enjoyed it very much.  I also help out with reception duties where I answer the phone and take messages.  This has increased my confidence and I enjoy it.  I am taking part in a 6 week guitar playing course which is also fun.  I am hoping to start volunteering at Foyle Food Bank soon which I am looking forward to”.

This project is part-funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014-2020 and the Department for the Economy.


Eating Disorder Awareness Week – Doris’s Story

Doris’s daughter Ashleigh developed an eating disorder around her 13th birthday. Here is her story…

It was on Ashleigh’s 13th birthday party that I realised something was up. There was pizza and party food, but she wouldn’t touch it. A short time later it was Easter and she refused to eat any chocolate eggs, which was really unusual, because, like me and all the women in our family we love chocolate. At the time though I didn’t actually think she had an eating disorder, but that she was just eating sensibly, because she really loves her food. But then I began to notice that she was becoming really strict with herself in what she ate – she was denying herself food she loved and said she was unhappy about the way she looked.

About a month later she still wasn’t eating chocolate or anything and I began to think she was being far too rigid so I took her to the doctor, who is a friend. She said at that stage it wasn’t too bad that she wasn’t eating rubbish but it was certainly not a good idea to be starving herself.

Soon after though, her periods stopped and her hair started to fall out. I could see her becoming withdrawn – she’d lost her sparkle.  She would watch videos online of a new chocolate bar and I’d say I’d go get her one but she would refuse to eat them. Food became an obsession and she was always looking up recipes and interested in what we were eating but still she was hardly eating anything.

I recall it was about June, when I could really notice the downy hair on her jaw, because of her weight loss, that the doctor said we needed to get her to Beechcroft (Eating Disorder Services-part of Forster Green Hospital).

She told me then she just couldn’t eat and that it was like something that wanted to kill you. It was all about control over food and one thing about it was, that while she was obsessed with food, she also became obsessed with school work and became a straight A student. She started to keep her bedroom immaculate and even stopped chewing her nails and grew them long. But at the same time she had lost the zest for life and she was really unhappy. It was heart-breaking.

When we went on holiday a month later her spine was jutting out she was so thin. The hotel we were staying at had a buffet and I thought this might be better for her but she became so distressed at meal times I found her one day curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor. Can you imagine what it’s like to see your daughter like that? It was a nightmare summer for us and I still get very choked up thinking about it.

She was drinking a lot of water on holiday, to fill her up, but she nearly fainted and I just couldn’t wait to get home because she was due at Beechcroft a few days after we were due home. We had a three hour appointment with a counsellor who talked to her about what was going on in her head. Meanwhile, the nutritionist basically put the fear of God into her and told her she had to eat three meals a day and told her ‘this is where we take back control’. She cried for a full hour after because she knew the battle she was going to be facing.

She started eating then, but only very plain food and couldn’t stand any sauce or anything like that. By Christmas,  all those months later, she only had turkey and vegetables and I was still worried about her.

We kept up with the appointments, and I was, all the while, encouraging her to try new food, but then in February she was due to go away on a school trip and I was a bit worried because she was still not quite over it.

The school was very good though and said that sadly there were a number of girls in the same boat. She went ahead and stayed in a room with a group of girls and had a ball. When I heard that Ashleigh had joined in with them eating rubbish in their room at night I was so overjoyed! Ever since, she’s been on the mend, and that was about a year ago.

One thing that helped her was getting a dog, which we did before Christmas that year, and that really helped her – I had told her I would agree to it if she started eating properly.  She was never diagnosed with anorexia but it was very, very scary there for a while, and our doctor said we’d caught it in time before it got the chance to get worse. And I couldn’t have done it without Beechcroft.

She said that at the time, she just couldn’t help herself, and as a mother I just didn’t know what to do. I remember worrying about whether she’d ever get better, when it was at its worst, and Karen Carpenter, the singer, would come to mind.

She’s still a bit careful now with what she eats but she never wants to go back to that because it was a very dark place. I couldn’t have borne it if it had been any worse than it was.


Eating Disorder Awareness Week – Ellen’s story

Ellen is 19 and is currently in recovery from anorexia. 

This week is NEDA week. This week is all about talking about eating disorders and helping to break the stigma surrounding them. It is believed that approximately 1.6million people suffer from an eating disorder (either diagnosed or undiagnosed). One of the most dangerous eating disorders is anorexia nervosa which I, myself am diagnosed with.

Anorexia has the highest mortality rate, with 1 in 5 sufferers dying. It’s heart-breaking but the number of people being diagnosed with eating disorders is rising each year, with children as young as 7 or 8 being diagnosed. Due to this, I believe it is SO important that we now, more than ever, talk and be open about eating disorders, so that people feel they can reach out for the help they need and most importantly deserve.

Unfortunately, 66% of anorexia sufferers don’t get the help they so desperately need. I, myself, was in denial for so long, I tried to convince myself that I could ‘fix’ it all on my own. But the truth is I couldn’t, and I ended up getting to an extremely critical state.

A lot of people don’t realise just how much an eating disorder can impact your life and change who you are as a person. There is a common misconception that eating disorders are ‘glamourous,’ ‘attention seeking,’ or ‘just a diet’. The reality however is you feel faint from simply standing up, you’re cold 24/7, you’re numb to EVERY emotion and your hair falls out. You think about food 24/7 but you can’t bring yourself to even eat a grape without the guilt consuming you and feeling like you’re not good enough for food.

You lie to your family and friends, you isolate yourself from everyone and everything. You can’t sleep, you can’t focus and simple conversations become mentally straining; concentration becomes impossible. I became so ill I had to temporarily withdraw from university and give up my part-time job, both of which I absolutely adored. Getting weekly bloods and an ECG heart trace became routine for me and sometimes it became so impossible to get the bloods I’d end up in hospital on an IV drip.

Fortunately, I have an incredible family who ensured I got the help I so desperately needed. If it wasn’t for their unconditional love and support I truly don’t think I would be here, writing this today. My mum and dad have been absolutely incredibly throughout all of this – if it wasn’t for them both taking time off work before Christmas, and mum going off work indefinitely, since January, to be with me, and support me day in and day out, I seriously would hate to think just how things could have turned out. However, I know so many aren’t as lucky as I am to have a support system like me, which is why it is so important to reach out for help.

This is extremely hard for me to talk about as I’m still in my recovery, and I’m in no way looking for pity or sympathy BUT if it helps even just one person to find the courage to reach out for help and know that they’re not alone, than I honestly believe it is worth it.

The photo on the left shows me in Disneyland Paris on Christmas Day 2016. I was healthy and happy, and I had the energy to drag my family around the park for 13 hours straight. I could eat what I wanted when I wanted without thinking twice. The photo on the right is me on Christmas Day 2017 – I barely had the energy to walk from my bedroom to the sofa and everything I ate was mental torture. I’m proud to say that while every day is still a huge struggle I have made SO much progress since the photo on the right, I’m not quite yet at a healthy weight. But I’m a lot healthier and most importantly, a lot happier.

Recovery is absolutely terrifying and by far the HARDEST thing I’ve gone through, but I know it’s going to be so worth it to be able to start living my life again.