All posts by actionmentalhealth

Martin McGuinness dFM visits AMH

Mickie Harkin AMH & Martin McGuiness dFM

AMH New Horizons Foyle hosted a visit from Martin McGuinness dFM, and Martina Anderson, the Junior OFMDFM Minister on 29th June 2011, where they acknowledged the remarkable steps clients have made on the road to recovery by presenting certificates to recent graduates of the ‘New Horizons’ program. In total 55 clients were presented with their certificates for a range of qualifications and subjects by the Deputy First Minister, including Rachel Reid who has been named CCEA’s learner of the year. It was also an opportunity for the audience to hear from AMH client, Billy Henderson on his experience of living with mental ill health and how his life has been transformed by then training and self development opportunities at AMH.

David Babington, CEO of AMH, welcomed everyone to the event and thanked the dFM and junior minister for their support.  Martina Anderson then talked about mental health issues in the Foyle area and the relationship she has forged with AMH.  Mickie Harkin, Foyle service manager, then invited Martin McGuiness to present the certificates.  The Deputy First Minister was pleased to be reaquainted with some old friends and talked about how proud he was of all the clients, and how they were a inspiration to others.  Other special guests included Bernard McAnaney, Assistant Director WHSCT, who praised the work of AMH, saying most importantly it offered clients a sense of purpose, he also acknowledged the partnership the Trust has had with Foyle New Horizons for over 20 years. Also present were Raymond McCartney MLA, many local employers, and representatives from the University of Ulster and local colleges.

Martin McGuiness was presented with a momento of his visit – a piece of tiffany glass depicting the oak leaf, the River Foyle, and the new Peace Bridge.  He said it would have pride of place in his office at Stormont and it would remind him of home and Action Mental Health. 

All the guests were then shown round the service before sitting down for lunch. 

Tom Elliott MLA visits AMH

AMH New Horizons Fermanagh hosted a visit from the UUP leader yesterday morning where he saw the remarkable steps clients have made on the road to recovery.  He was introduced to the range of activities on offer and had an opportunity to hear from AMH clients on their experiences of living with mental ill health and how their lives have been transformed by training and work opportunities.

AMH Scoop Workplace Award

Kevin MacAllister PwC presents David Babington CEO AMH with the award

Action Mental Health were among the high-profile businesses which scooped the gongs at the Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards in Belfast last night.

A sell out crowd packed into the Ramada Hotel for the gala black-tie dinner, at which Department of Employment & Learning minister Dr Stephen Farry congratulated all the winners for their success in placing a firm emphasis on individuals and their positive contribution to the Northern Ireland workplace.

The prestigious event, hosted by award-winning BBC journalist Karen Patterson, saw 16 main awards being presented alongside a special 5th anniversary Champion Award. Jewellery tycoon Gerald Ratner provided a fascinating and inspiring riches to rags and back again on how he reinvented himself after his infamous speech in 1992.

And as well as the blue chip companies honoured, the Workplace & Employment Awards also recognised innovative organisations which are seldom thrust into the spotlight, including Openwave Systems and Fusion Heating Ltd.  

“The aims and objectives of these indigenous workplace and employment awards in the business calendar have all been met and exceeded,” said Irish News editor Noel Doran. “The awards have strongly reinforced the message that people are our most important resource in what is challenging times.”

Speaking at the awards Employment and Learning Minister, Dr. Stephen Farry, said: “The aims of the Workplace and Employment Awards go hand in hand with the direction set out in my Department’s Skills Strategy for Northern Ireland. In order to support the local economy and with around 80% of the 2020 workforce already in work, my Department is focused on working with local employers to help them equip their employees with the skills they need – both now and for the future. I am pleased that the Department for Employment and Learning continues its unbroken association with the Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards”.

“And as these awards have proven, there are many examples of excellent workplace and employment best-practice across Northern Ireland, and I believe it is important that we recognise and reward the efforts that our businesses continue to make in this area.”

 The awards were supported by Tughans Solicitors, Royal Mail, PwC, Liberty IT, firmus energy and Investors in People and have been endorsed by key industry bodies the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD).

 Winners 2011

Recruitment Consultant of the Year

Winner: Paula Reid,  Grafton Employment Group

Recruitment Team of the Year

Winner: Grafton Employment Group

Highly Commended: Abacus Professional Recruitment

Recruitment Innovator of the Year

Winner : Grafton Employment Group

Highly Commended : Clarendon Executive

Work Life and Wellbeing Award – Education and Public Sector

Winner : Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety

Highly Commended: Southern Regional College and South West College

Work Life and Wellbeing Award – Private Sector

Winner : Openwave Systems Ltd

Highly Commended : Moy Park

Workplace Excellence Award – Public and Community

Winner : Action Mental Health

Highly Commended : Translink, Northern Ireland Housing Executive

Workplace Excellence Award – Education Sector

Winner : St. Mary’s Grammar School, Magherafelt

Highly Commended : St. Colm’s High School, Twinbrook

Best Place to Work – Small Organisation

Winner : Fusion Heating Ltd

Highly Commended : Napier & Sons Solicitors

Best Place to Work – Medium Organisation

Winner : FPM Accountants LLP

Highly Commended : Housing Rights Service

Best Place to Work – Large Organisation

Winner : Allstate Northern Ireland

Highly Commended : Kilrea Service Station Ltd

Right Place to Work – Small Organisation

Winner : Parker Green International

Highly Commended : George Best Belfast City Airport

Right Place to Work – Large Organisation

Winner : Lagan Construction

Highly Commended : Ashton community Trust, Echo Northern Ireland

Managing Talent Award – Small Organisation

Winner : Parker Green International

Highly Commended : Todd Architects

Managing Talent Award – Large Organisation

Winner : Santander UK

Highly Commended : Ladbrokes Ireland

Innovative Employer Award – Small Organisation

Winner : Manor Architects Ltd

Highly Commended : Young Enterprise NI

Innovative Employer Award – Large Organisation

Winner : Autoline Insurance Group

Highly Commended : FPM Accountants LLP

Champion Award

Winner : Allstate Northern Ireland

Visitors from Kwintes, Holland

This week, for the third consecutive year, staff and clients from Kwintes in Holland visited AMH New Horizons in Downpatrick.  Kwintes is a mental health and social care organisation with centres throughout the provinces of Flevoland, Utrecht and South Holland.  They provide care to a broad client group including those with a psychiatric diagnosis, those living with additions, victims of domestic abuse and the homeless.  They offer living, working and learning support as well as recreational activities.

The day provided an opportunity for clients to share their experiences and to talk about Kwintes and AMH.  They discussed cultural differences and gained an insight into services which are available in other parts of Europe. 

Despite the rain the group enjoyed a walk along the Quoile.

Medication & Mental Health Evening

We will be holding a Community Pharmacy evening at AMH New Horizons Belfast on Wednesday 29th June at 7pm.

The theme of the evening will be Medication & Mental Health.  Special Guest speakers will be Terry Maguire, who will talk about Medication & Mental Health, and Eamonn McVeigh who will discuss CBT.  Our community pharmacist, Kevin McDevitt and Service Manager, Andrew Sutherland will also be speaking about the AMH community pharmacy programme. 

The evening is being supported by the Ulster Chemists Association and local pharmacists will be in attendance. 

Coffee and Tea will be available from 6.30pm

for more information contact Andrew Sutherland.

Depression in young people

– recognising the signs and knowing where to get help

What is depression?

Most people, young people as well as adults, feel low, sad or `blue’ occasionally, this is a normal reaction to experiences that are stressful or upsetting.

When these feelings continue over a period of time, or take over and get in the way of your normal daily life, it can become an illness. This illness is called `depression’.

Depression is one of the most common emotional problems around the world; the good news is that it is also one of the most treatable. In fact, 80% of people who receive treatment for depression go on to have a better quality of life – they feel better and enjoy themselves in a way that they weren’t able to before.

 What are the causes of depression in young people?

There is no one single factor that will lead to the onset of depression, genes and family tendencies can deter whether someone is likely to be more susceptible to depression but there are also many other factors that can act as potential triggers which may prompt depression; one of which is that of the pressure of modern life on young people.

In our modern society, young people are fed information which puts pressure on them to meet needs that are often unrealistic. They are inundated with images as to how they are meant to look, what they are meant to have and how they are meant to behave, all based on the assumption that this is important to life. If young people feel that they do not meet the images that are portrayed to them via the media or peers, they can often feel different, that they are not good enough or disadvantaged which, if not dealt with appropriately, can lead to depression as well as problems with self-esteem, and confidence.

School can be a positive setting for learning, growth and development for many young people but it can also be a place where young people struggle in terms of fitting in, keeping up with a heavy work load, performance pressures and exam stress. Failing an important exam at school can cause great frustration and may lead to depressed feelings.  Bullying is also an issue that unfortunately affects many young people. Bullying can seriously affect a young person’s mental and physical health. It can lead to feelings of anxiety, low self-esteem and poor concentration.  The transition from one school to another or the leaving of school can also act as a trigger for the onset of depression.

Stressful relationships can also act as triggers for depression.  For some young people, a negative, stressful or unhappy family atmosphere can affect their self esteem and lead to depression.  Conflict within the family, divorce or separation leading to a change in living arrangements can lead to feelings of insecurity, guilt, anger, rejection or a sense of loss. Poverty, abuse and violence within the family are also key contributors. Difficulties in making and maintaining friendships or relationships, can lead to low self esteem and a loss of confidence which in turn makes it more difficult for the young person to find someone they feel comfortable with to share their worries.

Other triggers that have been identified in the lives of young people that may lead to the onset of depression include; the loss of a loved one, physical illness of self or a loved one, living with a parent or relative who has depression, being subject to physical or emotional abuse, weight gain, something embarrassing happening or a financial setback.

How to recognise signs of depression in young people

It is not always easy to recognise the signs of depression in young people. Young people face many challenges as they find their way in life but most balance their common troubles with good friendships, success in school or outside activities and develop a strong sense of self. Certain negative behaviours are to be expected, such as occasional bad moods and acting out, however depression is something different. Depression can lead to dramatic long term changes in personality, mood and behaviour.  Certain signs can help to identify whether a young person is suffering from depression, whilst considering these signs it is also important to acknowledge how long the symptoms have been present, their severity and the degree to which the young person is acting in a different manner to his or her usual self. Some signs of depression in young people include:

  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Withdrawing from family, friends and regular activities
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tearfulness and frequent crying
  • Feeling guilty or bad, being  self blaming or self critical
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Feeling unhappy, miserable or lonely a lot of the time

If a young person has all or many of these symptoms it may indicate that the young person is depressed.

What to do if a young person is depressed

If you do suspect a young person as having depression, it is important to find support immediately, recovery is much quicker in those who feel supported by those around them whether a family member, friend, counsellor or doctor.

In supporting a young person experiencing depression there are positive steps that you can take to help and provide support. For instance:

  • Encourage them to talk about their feelings making sure that it is clear to the young person that you are willing to provide whatever support is necessary
  • Take an understanding approach and listen carefully to what the young person is saying, if you criticise or pass judgement the young person will feel that you do not take their emotions seriously and will refuse to talk on the matter in the future
  • Avoid comments like, “snap out of it”, “get your act together”  as this can strengthen feelings of self-blame and low self-esteem
  • Learn about depression, the more you know the better equipped you will be to help
  • Research the sources of support that are available, offer to go with them to a doctor’s appointment or to speak to someone else.
  • Encourage the young person t take part in physical activity, exercise such as walking the dog can help alleviate the symptoms of depression
  • It is also important to look after your own mental health. Whilst it is important to be there for a young person, don’t try and cope with everything on your own. Getting help and support will make things easier for both you and your young person.

Treatment available

If you feel that your young person is showing signs that they are depressed, it is important to seek professional help in order for a diagnosis to be made. A doctor will take note of how long the young person has been showing symptoms of depression, the extent to which the symptoms are interfering with their daily life and any changes in behaviour. The doctor will also enquire as to whether or not there is a family history of depression or a mental health disorder. Your doctor may prescribe some medication to ease the young person’s symptoms or recommend other specialist services such as counselling and talking therapies.

Whilst depression can be a difficult condition to live with for the individual and the immediate family and friends, it is important to remember that depression can be treated and individuals have a good chance of making a full recovery when provided with the appropriate treatment and support.

For further information on local organisations and sources of support, contact MensSana, on 02838 392314 or e-mail

(Confidentiality will be respected at all times).

Next Stop Hollywood!

The Eclipse Cinema in Downpatrick on Monday night showed a double bill of locally made films. One of the movies “Downpatrick, Life in the 1950s – 1980s” was made entirely by clients of AMH New Horizons Downpatrick.   

Pictured from left, back row: Stephen Cunningham, Peter Doherty, Jonathan Curran, Hilary Cosgrove, David Boden. Front row, Danielle Smyth (Down County Museum), Joanna Miskelly (AMH)


Pictured are clients from AMH New Horizons, Downpatrick, proudly displaying certificates which they received as recognition of completing Level Two CCEA Occupational Studies. The clients gained this qualification while making their film. All of the clients achieved a Grade ‘A’ in this qualification; a remarkable achievement and a fitting testament to how hard they worked on the film.  Well done to Stephen, Peter, Jonathan, Hilary and David for their dedication, effort and enthusiasm over the past year; next stop, Hollywood! 

The film has been supported and funded by the PEACE III Programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body and delivered by the North Down, Ards and Down District Council. 

You can watch the film below:-

Part 1

Part 2

My Belfast Marathon Adventure

John Davis – Training & HR Officer in AMH – tells us about running in his first ever Marathon – The Belfast City Marathon 2011.

John (5th from the left) and the AMH Team on race day

What a fantastic experience, the atmosphere at the start line was really great, there was a real buzz in the air.  I got off to a good start and found some space to run and settled into my pace, as I headed towards Central Train Station I looked up and saw the thousands of people running – it was a great sight.  I reached the bottom of Holywood Road (mile 3) and turned left and headed up the bypass towards Bridge End. It was fairly easy as it was a flat run, I got to Bridge End which was the 6 mile mark and my blood sugars were ok and I was 10 mins ahead of my time. This was a relay change point and it was packed with relay runners and there was also a water station so I grabbed a cup of water and found out very quickly that I cannot run and drink at the same time!  Through the coughs and splutters I ran on and headed up High Street, Castle Street and the Falls Road.  The streets were lined with spectators, kids had their hands out to be high-fived and people were offering sweets and water – really great!

I made my way from the Falls Road to Lanark Way, then down the Shankill Road and turned left and headed up Tennant Street, again the streets were packed with spectators cheering and some kids were handing out jelly sweets. There was another water station in Tennant Street so I grabbed two cups of water (marathon running is thirsty work) and walked along drinking them. At this stage I was really feeling the sun and I wanted to make sure I drank the water instead of coughing it up over the people in front of me. I checked my blood sugars (being a diabetic) and they were a bit low so I took a few glucose tabs and ran on. Up ahead in Hillview was another relay change over point and again it was packed with runners.

It was approximately mile 9 and I was still feeling ok and confident that I would finish. So on I ran, up the Old Park Road and at Cliftonville Circus took a left and ran down Westland Road, (at this stage running downhill was a real pleasure), spectators lined the streets and I saw on the Westland Road that a women had set up her own water station. I ran on and crossed the Cavehill Road and now I was on my home turf! (The hours I spent running up and down the Cave Hill Road and Antrim Road training!!!!). I ran on and at the junction of Salisbury Avenue and Antrim Road I looked out for my mum, but didn’t see her (I later found out that she didn’t see me either!). Up the Antrim Road I ran and what I lift I got….this was the part of the marathon I was looking forward to as I knew my wife and two sons were waiting at the 12 mile mark, just at the Lansdowne Hotel.

I recognised almost everyone who was out on the Antrim Road cheering.   As I approached mile 12 I was looking to see my wife and sons but they saw me before I saw them. I had a bit of reception as my in-laws where there also and our friend Peter (his daughter was running a leg of the relay). …As if I had all the time in the world I stopped to have a chat and checked my blood sugars and got some water, meanwhile loads of runners were going past me and my youngest son Aidan said “hurry up dad you’re going to be last”. So I checked my time…approx 6 mins ahead…. on I went up the Antrim Road, at mile 13 I felt a bit of a niggle in my legs but thought nothing of it and ran on. Just over mile 14 (running down the Whitewall Road) I took cramps in both my legs and they tighten up and I fell over….. was it how a professional athletic would fall with a bit of grace?……  arms and legs were all shapes, I was sprawled out on the ground….I picked myself up and the pain in my legs was BAD! I gave them a bit of a rub and tried to stretch them but it just wasn’t working. I waited for a few minutes and then checked my blood sugars, at least they were ok. I ran on and managed to get to mile 17 and the cramps came back with a vengeance along with the pain. I really thought I was going to have to pull out of the marathon as my legs just did not want to work and the pain was really bad.

At this point I saw Gavin McConvey (Fundraising Manager/Service Manager, AMH) and asked him if he would give me a leg rub (Gavin is a cyclist and would know what to do in this situation). I don’t know what caused more pain, the cramps or Gavin rubbing my legs, but this did help me and I was able to run on, albeit at a slower pace but at least I was running. Thanks Gavin!

Anyway, on I ran along the tow path heading towards Duncrue Industrial Estate, the sun was out and I really felt it (during my training I didn’t experience running in hot weather). At the end of the tow path my wife and two boys were there along with my sister-in law and niece and they had fresh water, mmm … lovely. I checked my blood sugars and all was ok, so on I went.

I got to mile 22 and the pain in my legs was really bad but there was no way that I was going to stop, at this stage there was quite a few people coping with injury/cramp but were all pressing on. I checked my watch and I had been running for 4 ½ hours, this was meant to be my completion time, I was a bit annoyed.

I reached the Ormeau Road and spectators were still cheering runners on and this did give me a lift. As I was running/crawling up the Ormeau Road I was looking out for Helen and Colette from New Horizons Belfast but didn’t see them, Helen told me the next day that they didn’t see me either. I think they both had been sitting for a few hours outside a coffee shop, but the thought was there, thank you!

Spectators were also out on the home straight down the Ravenhill Road, again I got a bit of a lift which spurred me on.

And then there it was…the FINISH LINE!!!!  As I ran up to it I saw Tara, Declan and Aidan (my wife & kids) in the crowd waving and cheering, I crossed the finishing line 5 ½ hours after I started, 1 hour over my planned time to finish.  As I walked around the finishing area to meet my family I was presented with my medal, a bottle of water and a bag of Tayto Cheese & Onion crisps, I didn’t realise how hungry I was until I was given the crisps, I ate them within 30 seconds…… lovely. We stayed on at the park and had a picnic as there was still loads of people about and the atmosphere was great.

As we walked back to the car I said to Tara “never again, that’s my marathon experience over”, as my legs were so stiff and sore. For the next three days I was walking like a penguin. I had to walk up the stairs side on and walk down backwards holding on to the banister. In work I had to raise my chair to the highest setting and I had to plan going to the toilet; as it is on the second floor with four flights of stairs to waddle up, it took a bit of time.

Now that over two weeks have passed since the marathon and all the aches and pains have gone and I’m back out running, would I do it again?

Yes I would, as I think that I could run it in 4 ½ hours. It may be next year or the year after, but I will definitely run it again…….

John’s Fundraising target of £250.00 was smashed. He raised a total of ….drum roll…………£638.62 for AMH – thank you to all his sponsors.