All posts by actionmentalhealth

Young People and Mental Health

When most people think about “health” they conjure up images that are related to physical health.  Physical health is anything that has to do with our bodies; it has been the basis for numerous active and healthy eating campaigns.  It is surprising therefore that the importance of our mental health continues to be relatively overlooked.  Mental Health is something that we all have to look after; it is not just relevant to those who are affected by mental ill health.  Mental Health is something that we all have to look after; it is not just relevant to those who are affected by mental ill health.  Mental health related to our thoughts, feelings and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.  Aspects of positive mental health include feeling good about ourselves and others, having the resilience to cope with life’s ups and downs and feeling able to make a contribution to the society in which we live.

Young people face many challenges and difficulties as they strive to develop this independence and sense of identity whilst undergoing physical and emotional change.

They also face a range of pressures and stresses relating to academic performance, relationships, body image and peer pressure.

It is importance to manage this pressure and stresses effectively as they have the potential to act as triggers for later mental health difficulties.

One of the difficulties that parents and carers face is discerning between the normal moods of a young person and mental health problems.  It is important to note that any change in behaviour that is unusual of out of character for an individual may be a cause for concern and indicate the presence of a problem.  There are some general signs and symptoms which may alert you to the fact that a young person is experiencing mental health difficulties.

Changes to look for include:

  • Moody or irritable behaviour
  • Long periods of withdrawal/isolation
  • Changes in peer group
  • Deteriorating school performance
  • Changes in eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Lack of interest in looking after themselves or in hobbies/interests
  • Low self-esteem

Signs and symptoms will vary between individuals.  If any of the symptoms persist for more that a few weeks, are so severe that they interfere with the young person’s day to day life, or that present a significant change in an individual’s usual pattern of behaviour, may therefore indicate cause for concern and should be explored to determine their meaning.

If you are a parent of carer who is concerned about a young person:

  • Keep the lines of communication open: Encourage the young person to express their thoughts and feelings.
  • Make the young person feel safe: It is not always easy for a young person to open up about how they are feeling, therefore be cleat to your person that you want to help and that they do not have to face their problems alone.
  • Actively listen: Listen carefully to what your young person is actually saying, do not blame, criticise, judge or get angry.
  • Seek additional support if needed:
  • If you feel that you need additional help, your GP will provide you with advice and direct you to other sources of support that are available.
  • Educate yourself: become familiar with the issues that your young person is dealing with.
  • Look after your own mental health: It is important that you look after your own needs as well.  Support groups are great ways of sharing and learning from the experiences of others.  It is also important to take time for yourself and do something you enjoy.
  • Early Intervention: Early intervention is key to preventing the development of more serious problems.  Be watchful of changes in behaviour and character and seek help early.  Most difficulties can be resolved given appropriate support.

AMH MensSana is an advice and information service that is available to young people and their key contacts in relation to mental health issues. If you are a young person, a parent of carer and you would like further information on particular issues relating to mental health, please contact MensSana on 02838392314 or email hrobinson@amh.org.uk (confidentiality will be maintained at all times).

AMH MensSana offer tips to avoid exam stress!

MOPE, HOPE or COPE?

How Do You Cope With The Pressure of Exams?

With the exam season fast approaching, AMH MensSana is offering young people and families support and tips on getting prepared and learning to recognise and deal with exam stress.

There can be a lot of pressure on you to do well in exams and this can often leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.  Sometimes the demands to do well at school can be brought on by yourself or it can be caused by people around you.  Feeling anxious at such times is understandable, but some young people the pressure they feel can become too much to cope with.  In this article, AMH MensSana will discuss some useful tips to help you overcome the feelings you may have about your exams.

When we feel stressed, scared or nervous our body responds by releasing stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.  These hormones cause increases in heart rate, muscle tightening, blood pressure and breath quickening.  These physical changes increase your stamina and make you more alert preparing you to either fight or flee from the situation you face.

Experiencing these physical changes before and during an exam is normal and sometimes they can actually make us feel motivated to achieve, more alert, confident and enthusiastic.  Stress, however, becomes a problem with it begins to make us feel tense, nervous, anxious, aggressive and panic-stricken.  If severe or prolonged, stress can impair concentration and performance.

Symptoms of excessive stress include:

  • Physical effects such as headaches, dizziness and stomach upset.
  • Being preoccupied with thoughts of exams and feeling unable to relax.
  • Becoming withdrawn from friends, family and hobbies.
  • Constant tiredness due to problems sleeping.
  • Loss of appetite of over-eating.
  • Seeing only the negative side of things.
  • Becoming more aggressive and short tempered with those around you
  • Feeling so low and desperate that you are considering stopping school, running away or harming yourself.

If you can relate to any of these feelings, it is important to seek support as soon as possible.  There are a number of services which AMH MensSana can sign-post you to that offer help and advice or you may find support from friends, family or someone at school – it doesn’t matter who, but it is important to speak to someone.

You can also help yourself to minimise the stress caused by exams:

  • Develop a realistic revision timetable, making a list of the subjects/topics you have to cover and how long you have until your exam.  Feeling prepared and organised for your exams can reduce stress.  Your teacher should be able to help you with your revision timetable.
  • During exam time it is important to manage your time properly.  Try to keep a healthy balance between studying and other activities you enjoy.  You may need to cut down on some of these in the run-up to the exam period but taking time out will help you to relax and can take your mind off revision.
  • Long periods of continuous study can overload your brain, making it difficult to concentrate and be productive.  Remember to build regular breaks into your revision schedule.  Engaging in some form of physical activity during this time is a good way to reduce anxiety levels and help you relax.
  • Try to go to bed at a regular time and ensure you get enough sleep, as this will aid your concentration and performance.
  • Remember everyone revises differently.  Try to find the revision routine that best suits you – compare how efficient you are at different times of the day and using different study methods.
  • Ask for help from you teacher, parent/carer or a friend if there are things you don’t understand.

On the day of the exam:

  • Have a good breakfast and drink water.  Eating well and keeping hydrated can improve your concentration and also stop you feeling hungry in the middle of your exam.
  • Check where your exam will be held and when it begins and leave enough time to get there.  Getting lost and feeling rushed will only make you feel more anxious before your exam.
  • Make sure you have all the equipment you need for each exam for example pens, pencils, calculator and ruler.
  • If you are allowed,  it is a good idea to bring a bottle of water and some tissues with you to your exam.  Simple preparations like this help you to feel calm and in control.
  • If you are feeling anxious before your exam try breathing slowly and deeply.
  • When in your exam take time to read and re-read the questions thoroughly to ensure you do not overlook important information.
  • Answer questions you are most confident about first as this is where you are likely to pick up the more marks.
  • Try not to worry about what others are doing during the exam, this will only distract you.
  • Avoid lengthy discussions with classmates about how they answered the questions as this can leave you felling worried and frustrated and try to put the exam behind you as quickly as possible.
  • Remember to take time to relax and reward yourself after an exam by doing something you enjoy.

Young people will find stress much easier to deal with if they receive support from those around them.  As a parent/guardian you can help and support a young person by:

  • Trying to accommodate their needs by arranging a set time and place for them to study without being disturbed.
  • Taking an interest in their study by offering encouragement and support – try not to criticise or place added pressure on them.
  • Praising and encouraging their efforts and achievements can be motivating and demonstrates your support for them.
  • Try to keep things in perspective and encourage them to do the same – remember that exam results are not the only indicator of a young person’s capabilities.

Getting you exam results can be a worrying time.  It can seem like your future depends on what you get.  Receiving disappointing results can feel like the end of the world, but it is important to remember that people’s strengths and weaknesses lie in different areas and not everyone performs at their best under exam conditions.  The results you have received or the decisions you have made now, or in the past do not have to define what you do or who you are in the future.  You have more options and opportunities to succeed in the future than you may think.

If you are finding the pressures of exams difficult to cope with, talk to someone about how you are feeling.  Asking for help can be difficult – maybe you are worried about what others will think of you.  Many people, however, will be able to relate to what you are going through and may offer suggestions that you would not have thought of yourself.  You could speak to your teachers and they should be able to help you plan your revision and feel better about what you have to do.  It is also a good idea to talk to your friends and family about your feelings as they can help support you while you are feeling worried.

Asking for help is a good thing to do, but can be scary.  You may prefer to speak to someone you don’t know, like a counsellor, who is specially trained to help people in exactly your situation.  Your GP can put you in touch with services like this and may also prescribe medication, if appropriate, to reduce your feelings of stress and anxiety.

For further information on local organisations and sources of support, contact AMH MensSana on 02838392314 or check out their website www.menssanaproject.org.uk

Well Done to all our Marathon Runners!

The AMH Marathon Runners!

Thirty five runners took part in the Belfast City Marathon on Monday to raise money for AMH. 

We had 2 AMH relay teams, Team A (7299) – Bernie Best, Ingrid Gallen, Johnny Stevenson, Michael McCaul and Joanna Miskelly finished in 04:43:40 and Team B (7300) – John Sim, David Babington, Liam McConvey, Brian Hughes and Gavin McConvey also finished in 04:43:40!!

Many thanks also to Qualitrol in Belfast who fielded 2 all males relay teams (5582-03:55:58, 5584-04:41:01), 1 all female relay team (5581-04:47:49) and 1 mixed team (5583-04:06:20) and raised lots of money for AMH!

And now for the serious runners!  John Corry (1089) from AMH New Horizons completed the full marathon in a time of 04:08:57, he was joined by 3 of his friends – Marcus, Richard and Jacqueline Crane who also ran the full distance.  John Davis, our HR & Training Officer also ran the 26+ miles in 05:38:41.  Well done!!!!!

Arlene Foster MLA visits Fermanagh

AMH New Horizons in Fermanagh welcomed Arlene Foster, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment to their unit in Drumcoo yesterday.   Arlene is also running for re-election in Fermanagh and South Tyrone in the 5th May Assembly elections.  The Minister had a chance to meet with people in her consituency who are living with mental illness and find out more about the services available at AMH which are helping clients on the road to recovery and a better future.  Arlene enjoyed seeing around the unit, hearing about the courses on offer, and the difference AMH is making to peoples’ lives.  The visit ended with lunch, which was prepared by clients who are training for catering qualifications.

Work Experience at Queen’s

Gaining work experience when you have been out of employment for a while can be difficult, but thanks to work placements organised through the Equal Opportunities Unit at Queen’s, local people are getting the opportunity to gain valuable experience at the University.

Mark Hance

One such person is Mark Hance who is currently on a one year part time work placement with Information Services in the McClay Library.  The placement has been organised through Action Mental Health, the Equal Opportunities and Information Services.

A Masters graduate in Library and Information Management, Mark suffers from panic disorder – a condition which has resulted in him being out of work for a while.

Mark said “20% of people experience some form of mental illness and lots suffer from panic disorders.  They can be debilitating, much more that people think.  There is often a stigma attached with mental illness, but it is something which can be overcome and people can go on and live normal lives.  Everyone has their own coping mechanisms.  When I suffered my first occurrence twenty years ago, I suffered in silence and tried to cope with it myself.  This time round I sought help with Action Mental Health and have found it really helpful.  Work is a good remedy for most things and placements like this give people like me the opportunity to come back to work.”

Mark works two days a week in the Acquisitions and Cataloguing department in the McClay Library which deals with the ordering, purchasing and cataloguing of books, journals and electronic resources.  The Library has a collection of approximately 1.5 million books and 16,000 journals.

 “For me this placement is a stepping stone.  It builds on my masters and is an area I want to work in”. explains Mark. “I previously worked as a relief library assistant in Newcastle Upon Tyne Council, so this placement is perfect for me and will give me the valuable experience I need to fill my CV.”

 Maire Bradley is the Cataloguing and Acquisitions Librarian in the McClay Library.  She said, “This is the second placement our department has facilitated with Action Mental Health and we have found them to be a win win situation for everyone involved.  The placement is very much a two way process.  We have essential work which needs to be done and Mark gets the work experience that he needs.  It is hard to get work experience in libraries, so this is a perfect opportunity for Mark to get his foot in the door.”

 Explaining the importance of placements, Paul Browne, Equal Opportunities Manager at Queen’s said, “We were approached by Action Mental Health to facilitate this placement and were delighted to be able to do so.  It is an example of one of a number of initiatives taking place across the University to support equality and diversity in the workplace.  We have facilitated a number of placements in different departments in the University, all of which have worked extremely well.  The value of these placements cannot be underestimated.  As this placement is for one year, it gives Mark a longer period of time, and better opportunity, to train and gain the work experience he needs to go on and fulfil his career ambitions.”

Article courtesy of Queen’s University Belfast

Recognising AMH Volunteers

Special guest Peter Weir MLA

A special volunteer recognition event was held in AMH New Horizons North Down & Ards, in this the European Year of Volunteering.  Special guests included Cllr David Smyth, Mayor of North Down, Peter Weir MLA, Wendy Osbourne CEO Volunteer Now, Sonya Duffy Volunteer Manager with the South Eastern Trust and David Babington CEO AMH.

The event was held to raise awareness of the benefits of volunteering to individuals and the host organisations.  3 clients talked about their placements and encouraged other clients to volunteer.  A total of 25 clients received certificates from Peter Weir MLA, to acknowlege the commitment they have shown to volunteering and the immense benefits they have received by participating in the scheme.  Representatives from 20 of the host organisations also received certificates in recognition of their valued contribution to volunteering and a small gesture of thanks from AMH.

“Before volunteering at The Link I had no self worth – but being there and helping other people has given so much to me and has built up my confidence and self esteem.”

 Mandy Green, Catering Assistant, The MARC Project

“Being with other people is very important to me and to my mental health and I have got great satisfaction from helping others.  The experience that I have gained at Bayview will help me move forward in my chosen career.”

Frances Davies, Craft Tutor, Bayview Resource Centre

 “Volunteering in the library has given structure and purpose to the my day which I didn’t have before. It also gives me a chance to interact with a wide range of people of all ages which I enjoy immensely. I am much more confident around people now.” 

 Gwyneth Lines –  Library Assistant, SERC library.

“The staff at ASDA don’t treat me any differently because I’m a client from New Horizons.  I was really touched recently when I was ill and the staff sent me a get well card – it really made me feel part of the team.  Doing the placement has been so good and I am looking forward to returning to the workplace permanently.”

 Catherine Rankin – Shop Worker, ASDA & Photography Tutor U3A

Volunteers talk about their experiences

AMH would like to thank the following organisations who have supported client placements:

Action Cancer, Age Concern, Ards Citizens Advice Bureau, ASDA, Assisi Animal Sanctuary, Ballymaconnell Nursing Home, Bayview Resource Centre, Beacon House, Boots the Chemist, Café Manor, Cancer Connect, Daisies Café, Growing Connections, Jigsaw NI, Kiltonga Christian Centre, Lazy Daisies, North Down Motor Factors, Volunteer Now, Oxfam, Praxis Care, Rathgill Community Association, Re:Store, Redburn/Loughview Forum, Simon Community, South Eastern Regional College, The British Heart Foundation, The Link, The MARC Project, The National Trust, U3A, Ulster Cancer Foundation, Volunteer Now, Volunteer Services SE Trust and Youth for Christ.

Oxfam are one of the host organisations

 For more photos of the event click here.

For more information on volunteering go to the Volunteer Now Website 

No Smoking Day in Ards!

Today is National No Smoking Day which aims to help people quit the habit.  With the right NHS support, people are four times more likely to succeed. Today AMH New Horizons in Newtownards held an event to give advice and encouragement to those who were considering giving up!

The event was attended by Kenny Graham from Boots the Chemist who had lots of advice and tips and Mr Stubbs!  A number of clients are determined to give up smoking and we wish them luck!

Facts and figures on smoking habits in Northern Ireland