All posts by actionmentalhealth

Challenge yourself to conquer Slieve Donard to raise funds for Action Mental Health

It’s time to grab your walking shoes and challenge yourself to climb Slieve Donard to help raise vital funds for leading mental health charity, Action Mental Health.

Pack your flask and wrap up some sandwiches and take in the amazing scenery of Northern Ireland’s highest peak in the scenic Mourne Mountains for the inaugural AMH Slieve Donard Trek on Saturday, June 2.

The trek sets off at 9.30am and winds up at 4pm, and whether you’re a total novice or a seasoned walker, the journey to the 850m peak promises scenic views (even in inclement weather), the freshest sea air rising off the Irish Sea at the foot of the mountains plus a good bit of craic with your fellow walkers.

While you meander through Co Down’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty you’ll be raising much needed funds for Action Mental Health which works to enhance the quality of life and the employability of people with mental health needs or a learning disability in Northern Ireland.

To book your place please click here.

If you register by Wednesday, May 23 you have a chance to win a £50 voucher to spend at Victoria Square – so what are you waiting for!!

For more information call our fundraising team on 028 9182 8494 or email

AMH Works – Action Mental Health’s answer to Northern Ireland Workforces’ Ailing mental health

Gary Kane from AMH Works coaches employees to be mentally strong.

A new study illustrating the extent of mental health issues affecting Northern Ireland workforces underpins the need for services like AMH Works.

AMH Works supports healthy resilient workforces in an age when work – accepted as one of the most important factors in maintaining good mental health – has become so important that it often defines people’s lives.

Investors in People’s ‘Managing Mental Health’ report found that 85 per cent of people in Northern Ireland admit to feeling stress at work ­– higher than the UK average.

A further 63 per cent confirmed that their mental health had been affected by their job at some point in their career, with some 54 per cent of employees conceded they felt burdened by work-related stress while at home.

The findings also showed that just 10 per cent of workers felt comfortable enough to share their mental health concerns with their line manager.

And as work continues to present new levels of pressure on employees, Investors in People also found that 21 per cent of people would prefer mental health support in the workplace over a pay rise.

In response to this modern day issue, AMH Works was set up to provide mental health training and first aid in the workplace and now engages with some of Northern Ireland and the UK’s leading organisations.

AMH Works teach the skills required to support and maintain healthy resilient workplaces top to bottom – from CEOs to apprentices and boast a 96 per cent satisfaction rating.

It also works toward tackling the consequences of stress in the workplace – now the most common form of long term absence. Mental ill health also results in the loss of 10.6 working days per year per employee.

Action Mental Health Chief Executive David Babington said the findings of the IIP report make for alarming reading.

“We are slowly moving to a climate in which there are more open discussions about mental health in the workplace, however, this report shows there is still a great deal of work to be done.

“Everyone should feel confident that if they seek support for their mental health from their employers it won’t have detrimental consequences for their career trajectory or otherwise.

“AMH Works provides training in mental health and stress awareness, personal resilience, mindfulness, signposting employers and employees to appropriate interventions from the first symptoms of stress to those requiring resources for suicidal thoughts.”


Walk yourself to better health and mental well-being

The evenings are brighter longer and the birds are still chirping as the sun delays its nightly dip back behind the horizon – spring is here. The season allows us more time to enjoy the outdoors and to take full advantage of its soothing benefits to our bodies – and particularly our mental health and well-being.

May is National Walking Month so if you haven’t gone out for a wee dander lately, why not head out today, tomorrow or as soon as you can? Walking, especially briskly, is great for keeping fit but more than that, it has recognised benefits to your emotional and mental well-being. It boosts the levels of chemicals in your body called endorphins and serotonin, which not only reduce pain, but also improve your mood. Like any activity, walking improves self-perception and self-esteem – even the quality of your sleep.

Countless others around Action Mental Health have got together to enjoy the communal stroll into nature and though everyone had their own particular favourite aspect of the group activity, they all agree – they feel the better for it.

One group of walkers from New Horizons Craigavon said not only does the activity help clear their heads, it also provides a great social aspect, giving people a welcome opportunity to commune, not only with nature, but with others for a ‘chat and a laugh’.

Marc McCann, Skills Coach in Personal Development said the two walking groups who glean such benefit from walking range in number from two to eight at times.

They are lucky enough to have the Craigavon Lakes at their disposal to walk around and often head through The People’s Park in Portadown for their regular strolls, among other local venues.

“The walking groups are a great way for clients to meet up, get active and also connect with others,” he added.

“ It’s exercise that we feel comfortable with as it’s not too strenuous, and it makes us feel good,” the walkers agreed.

One of the gang of enthusiastic walkers is 52-year-old George Haugh from Portadown.

“I walk with the group every Friday morning and I find walking really relaxing. I really enjoy walking with company and it’s also a great way to keep fit, but the relaxing benefits are the number one appeal.”

Another client of New Horizons Foyle, James Ward, has been reaping the benefits of walking since joining  her AMH group last summer.

“I’ve been a part of the walking group since August 2017. One of the walks was a journey through Derry’s Walls. It included a visit into St. Columb’s Cathedral, which was very interesting as I’ve never been there. My favourite walk was over the Peace Bridge, and this was my first trip over the bridge even though it’s been open for seven years.

“We got a photo of us all on the bridge.  I always look forward to the walks each week and I think it has helped me to cope with my arthritis. During the walks we would chat, take a rest and then carry on. Overall the fresh air makes me feel a lot better and hopefully I can continue with this form of exercise. I think the walking group helps everyone to cope better and enjoy themselves at the same time.”

Walking is of course a regular feature among Action Mental Health clients and employees too. And our supporters also don their walking boots every year to raise money for every mile walked – across terrain that’s nice and relaxing but sometimes very taxing.

A hearty band of walkers will also be be challenging themselves to scale Northern Ireland’s highest peak for the Slieve Donard Trek on Saturday, June 2.

Later in the summer, AMH walkers and supporters will be packing their flasks and sandwiches for the annual six mile hike from Omeath to Carlingford Sponsored Walk on Saturday, August 4.

For more information about joining either event




Join in the ‘Great Big Purple Picnic’ and help raise funds for Action Mental Health

Northern Ireland’s leading mental health charity is inviting everyone to join in its first ever Northern Ireland-wide picnic event.

Action Mental Health is asking people to host a Great Big Purple Picnic to help mark Mental Health Awareness Week from 14th to 20th May and wants schools, businesses, community groups, families and friends to get their picnic hampers 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 raise vital funds to help support their work across Northern Ireland. Most of all AMH wants you to have a bit of fun while you’re doing it.

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!

You can download a fundraising and information pack below or request one by emailing or by calling 028 9182 8494.


Schools    Corporates & Organisations


Action Mental Health clients experience ‘a day-in-the-life’ by supporting World Shadow Day

Emma Moore from New Horizons Downpatrick, potting plants at Walker Seeds and Paints in Newtownards, during the recent job shadow day.

A number of Action Mental Health clients recently grabbed the opportunity to enjoy a day ‘at work’ in a variety of industries and fields, including some they had never experienced before, as part of the Europe-wide Job Shadow Day.

Action Mental Health jumped at the chance to offer clients the chance to improve their employability by marking the employment initiative, founded in 2008 by the Irish Association of Supported Employment

Job Shadow Day highlights the positive contribution people with health conditions and disabilities can make to workforces and the economy.

By 2017 over 800 job seekers participated in the event, across 500 employment sites, securing 55 permanent job placements as a direct result. As part of its wide and varying services, Action Mental Health sources and supports employment opportunities for clients, helping them avail of training and voluntary places.

New Horizons Downpatrick client Emma was offered a stint at Walker’s Seeds and Paints, in Newtownards, to participate in a day in the life of the business.

Noel Walker, manager of the company said: “Emma was welcomed and introduced to the team and given an overview of our products and services. Emma proved to be very competent and was able to carry out all tasks that were given to her.  She was willing to ask when she needed help and was very courteous when dealing with customers.

“I found this experience to be very beneficial knowing that it is helping others to find experience when looking to source employment.”

Mal, also New Horizons Downpatrick, spent a day with Bangor Aurora Aquatic and Leisure Complex. Aurora’s Will Carson said it was a pleasure hosting Mal and letting him shadow employees in the Fitness Suite.

“Even though he was only here a short time Mal demonstrated good communication skills and was able to engage well with the members – probably the most important skill of any aspiring Fitness Instructors. He was also able to see a high-intensity class, a class for people who are at risk of falls, and an aqua fit class all at the same time. This gave him some perspective on the range of abilities he could be working with at any given time.
“It was obvious from the outset that he was already quite knowledgeable and enthusiastic about getting into the industry. He was keen to learn how a Fitness Suite operates on a day-to-day basis and eager to see it in practice. He asked a lot of great questions about the business and fitness in general.

“I hope Mal continues to work toward industry qualifications. He would be an asset to any gym and he is more than welcome to come back here any time.”

Mal enjoyed his shadow day at Aurora.

“When I was shadowing the instructors at Aurora, I found it very interesting to see the running of a gym from their perspective, from setting up the equipment maintaining its cleanliness for hygiene, setting up classes and running them, introducing new members from the young, old and with a wide range of abilities.

“They made new members feel welcome and capable but most of all they made sure that they use the equipment correctly and safely. Everyone had a role and a job to do around the gym and they kept each other informed. Everyone I spoke to loved working there and all of them were friendly and got on with one another, which give the place a nice atmosphere and allowed me to relax and feel comfortable. To finish all I can say is that I learned a lot from my day in the Aurora fitness suite which has helped me understand that day-to-day running of the gym was more than just helping people achieve their goals but keeping the gym in shape too.”

Catherine Wren, (right) who spent the day at the Department of Education.
David Webb, who attends New Horizons Belfast, spent the day with the Belfast Trust’s Ravenhill Day Centre.



Read All About It… Titanic Hotel Belfast Launches Partnership with Action Mental Health

Jonny Smyth, Fundraising and Communications Manager, Action Mental Health, catches up on the latest headlines with Titanic Hotel Belfast’s Lydia Gourley, HR Manager; Paddy Smith; William McIlroy; and General Manager, Adrian McNally.

BELFAST’S newest hotel has announced that Action Mental Health will be its charity partner for 2018/19.  The local charity works to enhance the quality of life and the employability of people with mental ill-health across Northern Ireland as well promoting well-being and resilience to future generations.

In the UK, more than 10 million working days are lost to stress, depression, and anxiety every year, costing more than £10 billion a year to the economy. Work in hotels including shift-work, high level customer service and tight schedules can be a fast-moving and stressful environment.

Lydia Gourley, HR Manager Titanic Hotel Belfast said:

“Mental health is a cross cutting issue in Northern Ireland with one in five people here affected by mental ill-health.   When you consider the number of people working in hospitality and using hospitality services, hotels such as ours are in a unique position to impact people’s lives for the better”.

General Manager, Adrian McNally added,

“We know we have a responsibility to support and protect all the people who touch our business, whether that’s our employees or our guests. We put people at the heart of everything we do and that’s why we are supporting Action Mental Health to continue their vital work in our community.”

Action Mental Health’s Fundraising and Communications Manager, Jonny Smyth, said:

“‘We are extremely pleased that Titanic Hotel Belfast has chosen to focus on and support mental health and well-being in the coming year and we are delighted to have the support of a business so immersed in our local heritage, adding such an exciting new chapter to the enduring and iconic Titanic story.  Our team at AMH will work closely with Titanic Hotel to host a number of fundraising activities and events to raise much needed funds and awareness, tackle stigma and promote positive mental health’.  

Titanic Hotel Belfast’s General Manager Adrian McNally shares the good news splash with Lydia Gourley, the hotel’s HR Manager, and Jonny Smyth, Fundraising and Communications Manager, Action Mental Health, in the hotel’s Chairman’s Office.

My Journey with Action Mental Health

I was referred by my psychiatrist to Action Mental Health New Horizons, Derriaghy and started on 20th Jan 2016.

I had an initial meeting with the Client Development Co-ordinator. I felt afraid and extremely nervous, as I didn’t really know anything about AMH and the service it provided and I lacked confidence and self-esteem, and my social life was non-existent because my friends and family didn’t really understand ‘mental health’.

After my initial meeting, I still felt nervous but not as afraid ‘of the unknown’ because she explained everything that was on offer to me and reassured me that I wasn’t under any pressure to attend the service. I was offered various classes that I could attend and I decided to start with Confidence and Self-Esteem.

When I walked into the reception area for my first class and saw people sitting there, I felt intimidated and started to doubt my own abilities, I thought;

–              I have to find a seat at the back and keep my head down! (Ice-breakers really help with this).

–              What am I doing here? – The other people looked so confident and comfortable.

–              Will anyone recognise me? – Because I didn’t want anyone to know I came here.

–              How many people are in the class? Panic….. Is this going to be like school?

–              Will I have to talk? – Whoa!

—           Self-doubt! —Will I be able to do this?

All of the staff made me feel at ease. I have never felt there was a difference made between staff and clients. I have always been treated as an individual and if I needed any support whatsoever, there was always time made for me, which made me feel like I wasn’t a burden; as I am not in competition with anyone at AMH.

Since starting AMH, with reassurance and encouragement, I have completed various courses in personal development such as: Confidence & Self-Esteem, Stress Management, Assertiveness, Exploring Feelings and Emotions, Learning how to Crochet and Art. These courses have been beneficial to me personally.

The most important thing to me was ‘confidentiality’ and knowing that everyone was in the same boat! I was not the only one!

I am also a member of the CLAG (Client Local Advisory Group) which promotes AMH and allows me to speak on behalf of others to improve the service that is provided. We also have a ‘buddy’ system which will help others feel less ‘afraid’!

Again with staff support and advice, I have recently started a voluntary placement at The Hospice Shop which I thoroughly enjoy as it helps me to improve my social skills and confidence even more (can I get more confident?) and hope to continue with this in the future. Without the support of AMH staff I don’t feel that I could have achieved this on my own.

My future is much brighter now through attending AMH and the continued support I receive which is a major help. I have met new friends, socialise and feel that I am contributing to society and have a true sense of personal achievement. I am not afraid to be open and honest about my mental health!


Many thanks to Jennifer for sharing her story.  Jennifer is taking part in the “Working It Out” project which is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014-2020, the Department for the Economy and the five NI Health & Social Care Trusts. To find out more please click here.


Special focus on alcohol awareness and AMH’s many and varied services

Ciara Sharkey is enjoying life once again thanks in part to the support of Action Mental Health

April is alcohol awareness month, and considering many people in Northern Ireland exceed recommended healthy levels, it is a societal issue that continues to challenge government and health policy to stem its rising tide.

Some four in five adult drinkers exceed recommended daily limits in Northern Ireland and the overall misuse of alcohol costs the taxpayer close to £500m per year, being supported by health and social services budgets, the courts and prisons to the police and fire and rescue services.

There are also known links between alcohol misuse and mental ill-health, with the World Health Organisation stating that people who consume high amounts of alcohol are vulnerable to higher levels of mental ill-health.

One local woman Ciara Sharkey tells us how AMH helped her conquer her own journey through alcohol difficulties…

“I cannot believe I am actually writing this story when I think back to the first day I came through the doors of AMH. Basically I had been living in hell for three long hears, constantly fighting these demons in my head and my only relationship I had at the time was with the bottle.

I visited the GP on a regular basis and had my medication changed a lot. I was referred to Woodlea House to be detoxed and receive on to one counselling with the alcohol.

My anxiety was at the point it couldn’t have got any higher on the scale I had no intention of ever broadening my horizons. It was then my counsellor in Woodlea House suggested a visit to Foyle New Horizons; I had never felt so much fear running through my body as I did that day. I wstarted New Horizons in August 2016 and I was based in the craft and woodwork departments. I was very aware of all these new people and petrified of anybody trying to start conversations with me. My key worker Albert reassured me on a daily basis and helped a lot, working on my confidence, self-esteem and reducing my alcohol intake.

I started day by day feeling less anxious as I soon discovered I wasn’t the only one who had alcohol and mental health issues. I completed a vast amount of OCN courses. I then started to feel more comfortable throughout the building and started working in the catering department and thrived on the experience I was receiving. I was asked to cover reception at tea time breaks and that alone boosted my confidence immensely.

Albert then suggested I talk to the employment officer about a placement. Fear, anxiety and panic appeared again – but not for long as Valerie suggested a playgroup for children with special needs. I jumped at the chance and fear turned into happiness and excitement. This was an amazing opportunity for me to have the pleasure of working with children.

I now attend the playgroup once a week and I absolutely love it I intend to increase my days to one morning and one afternoon every week. I finally feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life, at happiness and a real desire to be here again.

Foyle New Horizons was the best decision I’ve ever made and I wouldn’t change it for the world. The staff and keyworkers are so supportive and helpful so I just want to thank them so much for everything.”