All posts by actionmentalhealth

Action Mental Health announces new partnership with Northern Ireland firm LoughTec

Action Mental Health’s Fundraising and Communications Manager Jonathan Smyth (left) announces the latest corporate partnership, with LoughTec’s Natasha McKenna, Service Desk Engineer and Cahir McKenney, Marketing Executive (photo taken prior to current restrictions).

One of Action Mental Health’s newest corporate partners, LoughTec, has reflected on the importance of the new relationship in light of the unusual times Northern Ireland is living in, with the ongoing pandemic.

In selecting Action Mental Health as its nominated charity for 2021, the IT specialists are eager to help fundraise for the charity. The company has also signalled its aim to support AMH’s range of programmes dedicated to supporting the well-being and resilience of Northern Ireland’s children and young people, something that’s never been more vital.

Sean McDermott, LoughTec CEO, expressed the firm’s commitment to supporting Action Mental Health.

“LoughTec is delighted to support Action Mental Health as its nominated charity in 2021. The past 12 months have taught us to look after what is important, and our mental well-being is a huge part of that. Supporting Action Mental Health will help continue the great work already being provided throughout communities in Northern Ireland by the charity,” he said.

“We look forward to playing our part in fundraising for these vital services, and engaging with our staff on the importance of their mental health at home and in the workplace.”

Action Mental Health’s Fundraising and Communications Manager, Jonathan Smyth commented: “We are very grateful for LoughTec’s decision to adopt the charity as a focus for its fundraising for 2021. The pandemic has had a significant impact on our planned events and fundraising campaigns, but we greatly look forward to generous commitment from LoughTec to support us.”

“As a local charity, Action Mental Health relies upon the support of the local community and businesses like LoughTec to help provide many of our services. We know that children and young people’s mental health has been particularly impacted by the pandemic. As such the need for the specialist mental health services provided by Action Mental Health in schools and communities across Northern Ireland has never been so great.”

To find out more about Action Mental Health’s range of services or to find sources of support please visit You can also find out more about LoughTec’s services by visiting

If you would like to join LoughTec in #TakingActionOnMentalHealth by establishing a charity partnership with Action Mental Health, please get in touch with their fundraising team.

Parenting in a pandemic – tips from Action Mental Health

Parenting in a pandemic presents mums, dads and carers with a unique set of pressures rarely experienced before in global history.

For those parents who found it difficult entering the first lockdown last March, the return to strict restrictions on our movements will, for many mark a return to the fear, devastation and uncertainty they felt last time.

Lockdown at home can make it hard for families to keep a sense of calm. It’s therefore paramount to help your child feel safe and secure by ensuring they maintain a routine as much as possible. By making sure there is daily structure you can help them manage expectations, emotions and build resilience in them. 

Address children’s fears

Children rely on their parents or carers’ cues to feel safe, both physically and emotionally. By providing reassurance to children that you are there for them, you can equip them with the confidence that we will all get through this. This can be achieved through a number of ways:

  • Be honest and answers questions about the pandemic in an age appropriate way. Talk with your child about the frightening news they hear. It’s okay to say people are getting sick, but remind them to follow safety steps: wash your hands, wear a mask and stay at home. All this will help the family and others stay healthy.
  • Recognise your child’s feelings. Calmly say, for example: “I can see that you are disappointed not going back to school. What are other ways we can have fun with your friends?”
  • Keep in touch with family and friends. Children can worry about grandparents living alone or family friends, so connections like video chats can help a little, though this method is not always appropriate for younger children.

Self-care strategies

As part of AMH’s vast toolbox of mental health support for young people, as promoted in its pioneering Healthy Me programme for primary school children, there are many steps that can be taken to help children – and their parents – to negotiate this difficult time. They include practical, self-care strategies, among them:

  • Finger breathing. This type of breathing process helps to calm children when they are feeling stress.
  • Fill a self-soothe box. Fill a box with items that help you relax or inspire positive memories and happy feelings. Whether it’s a treasured photograph, a seashell from a memorable visit to the seaside with a loved one, or something tactile to hold on to in times of anxiety, it’s up to you.
  • Create a worry box. Encourage children to talk about their worries and fears, and support them by helping to write them down and tuck them away. This can help them to limit the time they spend worrying about things they can’t control.

Parental self-care

As you help to support your children, parents and carers must not ignore their own needs. Many will be feeling the strain of home-schooling while carrying on their own job, working from home. Help yourself from becoming overwhelmed by embracing the tips in this useful guide.

Parenting Self Help & Care During the Coronavirus Pandemic

You can also avail of the assistance available in the Covid Wellbeing NI site.

Parents can also help themselves – and their children – by embracing the principles of Five Ways to Well-Being. Why not choose activities within the key points, to adopt as a family and support each other. Find out more.

Covid-19 and Anxiety – 7 steps to help improve your mental health – AMH MensSana

As we return to another lockdown, many will be left feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Once again, the ongoing pandemic is dramatically disrupting our lives, confining us to our homes and separating us from family, friends, work and school.

As the Covid-19 resurgence takes hold, it is important to remember that many will share your feelings of stress, fear and helplessness. However, it is important to remember that it is OK to feel this way – everyone reacts differently to different events.

There are some simple things you can do to help you take care of your mental health and wellbeing during times of uncertainty – and doing so will help you think clearly and make sure you are able to look after yourself and those you care about.

Our team from AMH MensSana have got together (remotely) and come up with the following steps you can take to help improve your mental health and wellbeing if you are feeling anxious.


So many aspects of this situation are out of your control. For example, you can’t control other people’s lack of respect for social distancing guidelines, or the government response to what is happening. While this is incredibly anxiety-provoking, it is something you need to acknowledge.

This might be easier said than done but in doing so you will free up so much headspace and this will allow you to focus on proactive strategies you can put in place to help you adapt throughout this period of uncomfortable change.


Please give yourself permission to feel sad, anxious, frustrated… whatever it might be or however insignificant it may seem relative to other people’s distress, know that what you are feeling is completely valid. We all respond differently to stressful situations. There is no right and wrong.

Be gentle with yourself and show yourself the same compassion you would a loved one or close friend. Give yourself some credit! You are doing the best you can considering the circumstances.

Your feelings will pass but only if you allow yourself to recognise them. Mindfulness meditation is a really great technique for this, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed. It does take practice, but apps like ‘Breathe’ and ‘Headspace’ are a useful starting point. Avoidance might work in the short-term but it will not have any long-term benefits.


While it’s important we keep ourselves informed of recent developments, it’s easy to overdo it and we can often forget that articles etc are typically designed to be alarmist. Delete news notifications from your phone and try to limit social media use. If you are feeling particularly anxious, repeated exposure to these isn’t going to be helpful. You can make the decision to disconnect. This is one part of the situation that is within your control.

In terms of symptoms, the more you look for signs, the more you’ll find them. Mimicking covid- 19, things like dizziness and breathlessness can result from heightened anxiety. This shows the importance of trying to remain calm in order to send the message to your brain and body that you can deal with this threat in a pragmatic way.

In terms of hygiene practices, please follow advice as best you are able. Fears of infection are extremely common right now, leading to things like increased hand washing. This isn’t a bad thing, it is in fact necessary and a completely rational response to what is happening. It is important however to be able to notice if it is becoming too extreme. Washing repeatedly for more than 20 seconds is moving beyond safety- seeking behaviour and closer towards the territory of compulsion. Breaking this cycle is so important to prevent your anxiety worsening.


Although circumstances aren’t ideal, we have been given the opportunity to slow down and take a break from the fast-paced chaos that is often modern- day life. There are lots of social media posts saying things like ‘build that business/ write that novel’. If you’re up for it, by all means go for it. But the magnitude of what is happening is hard to comprehend and putting pressure like this on ourselves may not be helpful. Why not try reading some of those books that have been gathering dust on your shelf for a little bit? Or attempting to learn the basics of a new language, try baking something different, get yourself into a little routine of doing some exercise each day. What’s most important is that you are taking care of yourself both physically and emotionally. That is itself is ENOUGH!

Step Five- WRITE

Journaling your concerns will help you recognise that your thoughts are just that… thoughts. They DO NOT define you. It will also support identification of negative thoughts and worries which you can then take steps to challenge. Ask yourself…

  • What am I most afraid of?
  • What is the evidence for/ against this negative thought/ worry?
  • Is there anything I can do about it?

It might also help to write a short daily list of three things that have made your day that little bit better.  There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for!


There is so much frustration and upset that comes with being unable to spend time with friends and loved ones. But these are minimal sacrifices we have to make right now to ensure everyone’s safety and help flatten the curve. Remind yourself that by adhering to government guidelines, you are demonstrating great compassion and respect for the well-being of others. We’re all in this together.

On that, social distancing does not equate to social disconnection. We’re so lucky to live in an age where technology enables instant connection whether that be by messaging, a phonecall, Facetime. Make use of these. Chat to trusted friends and family members about how you are feeling and any worries you might have. This will help retain perspective.

If you’re out getting your recommended daily exercise, smile at whoever passes you by, ask how they’re doing. Social distancing hasn’t cancelled kindness.

Step Seven – ROUTINE

We can strive to maintain a sense of normality in this abnormal situation. Set your alarm, get up/ showered/ dressed and go about your day. If you’re working from home, schedule regular breaks. Eat your meals and snacks (and don’t be so hard on yourself if you consume more than you otherwise would). What’s important is that you identify and try to follow through on those things that give you a sense of purpose.

You can find information on lots more sources of support on the article below:

AMH’s Review of 2020

New Developments, New Services

Action Mental Health had geared up for a very busy 2020, celebrating new and existing partnerships, as well as launching new developments, improving existing projects and fundraising – and what a year it has been!
Action Mental Health kicked off 2020 with the launch of a new programme dedicated to young people aged 18 to 25 in the Lisburn area. The SPEER service – Supportive, Positivity, Equality, Empathy and Respect – established in conjunction with Youth Action, offers young people the chance to develop personally and enhance their life choices through fun activities and accredited training.

In April, Action Mental Health was delighted to announce its merger with New Life Counselling. The move was designed to combine resources, services and expertise, to offer the best opportunity to develop and sustain mental health support for our communities in these challenging times. The merger is testament to the determination of AMH to continue to tackle the disparity between physical and mental health services, and copper fastens its commitment toward ‘Taking Action on Mental Health’ with the additional and valued support of its new AMH New Life Counselling service.

Action Mental Health has been part of pioneering work on developing artificial intelligence (AI) to help people’s mental health and well-being.  Menhir is being spearheaded by a collaborative team from Northern Ireland – including Action Mental Health and Ulster University – England, Germany, Italy and Spain. Work is also underway on the ChatPal project, the new mental health App which develops relationships, as well as engendering a sense of accomplishment and meaning among users. The app was launched early to meet increased demand for mental health assistance, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, especially among the isolated and people living alone.

The EU PEACE IV-funded project, ‘Our Generation,’ began work earlier in the year and marked its official launch on 24th September, through a special virtual event, when its objective ‘Growing Up Better – Together’ was unveiled. The project provides a unique opportunity for communities, north and south of the border, to work together to halt the intergenerational impact of trauma and to build emotional resilience and peace for generations to come. The three-year project will run until December 2022, reaching 36,000 children and young people who will engage in peer support, skills development and confidence-building, to improve well-being within their communities. It is aimed that they will also act as agents of change, building peace for future generations.

This year, Action Mental Health was delighted to return to Lisburn, when AMH New Horizons Derriaghy moved to the city. AMH New Horizons Lisburn brought its range of services to Railway Street in Lisburn at the end of September, creating more space and improved facilities for clients.

Adapting to Covid-19

This year saw the burgeoning of a new virtual world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and in response, the development of a new well-being hub. A far-reaching initiative to promote positive mental health during the crisis was launched by the Departments for Communities and Health, partnered with 15 leading mental and well-being health charities, including Action Mental Health. AMH also launched a new section to its website homepage to direct visitors to a specially-collated information section on promoting and supporting mental health and well-being during the unprecedented period.

AMH has adapted and brought many of its services to clients, with a range of blended learning and support during the lockdown, with not one, but two members of Team AMH being rewarded with a coveted ICE award – heralding their Innovation, Creativity and Excellence. Skills Coach Sara Millar and AMH IT Manager Jonny Cirnaru received the awards.

The lockdown also marked AMH New Horizons and AMH Promote offering a virtual service and as restrictions eased, a blended service. Services around the country launched a comprehensive training calendar, delivering activity packs to clients, offering them workshop activities, online entertainment and educational packages, plus arts and craft materials. AMH MensSana, AMH everyBODY and AMH Works, also moved to online delivery, offering a range of training sessions. AMH New Life Counselling also quickly adapted and began to offer online counselling support to its clients, while the Workable team continued to provide support remotely as well.


In its role as secretariat for the All Party Group on Suicide Prevention, Action Mental Health has hosted meetings regularly this past year, kicking off 2020 with a special focus on the particular issues facing rural communities in Northern Ireland, at AMH New Horizons Fermanagh. The charity was delighted to welcome local MLAs and community representatives, alongside other eminent guests including Professor Gerry Leavey from Ulster University, Michael Mowen from Oak Healthy Living Centre and Mary Friel from the British Red Cross. The group met again in March and heard from the interim Mental Health Champion, Professor Siobhan O’Neill. In May, AMH hosted the first ever virtual All Party Group meeting – due to the pandemic – with over 40 stakeholders attending.

AMH met with the First and Deputy First Ministers remotely in April, as part of the Mental Health Policy Group (NI). The meeting gave members a chance to press home the need for continued work on the development and implementation of a mental health strategy for Northern Ireland, as well as the mental health impact of Covid-19.

Action Mental Health ambassadors, champion gymnast, Rhys McClenaghan and Cool FM’s Paulo Ross, helped kick off the charity’s campaign to promote Children’s Mental Health Week, in February. The AMH MensSana team got digitally creative, marking 2020’s theme, ‘Find Your Brave’, producing 25 videos featuring children, young people and teachers from Presentation Primary School, Lismore Comprehensive, Irvinestown Primary School, Abbey Grammar School and Saintfield High School. 

AMH everyBODY also created a series of web stories, social media posts and videos for Eating Disorder Awareness Week, focusing on the help available, personal stories, tips on how to talk to someone, artwork, poems and much more. The effort secured great engagement from service users, AMH staff and the Eating Disorder Team at the Southern Health and Social Care Trust. 

Professor O’Neill again assisted Action Mental Health for World Suicide Prevent Day in September, when she appeared in a special AMH video alongside Órlaithí Flynn, Chair of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s All-Party Group on Suicide Prevention; Lisa Archibald, Project Co-ordinator with the Families Voices Forum and AMH’s Colin Loughran and Sarah Grant Jones, who all help deliver the charity’s message of hope and remembered those lost to suicide.

In partnership with the Progressive Building Society and the Consumer Council, AMH helped launch the third annual Northern Ireland Savings Week, this September. During the week-long campaign, AMH raised awareness of the links between money worries and mental health and provided coping mechanisms as well as tips on looking after mental wellbeing and developing resilience.

AMH’s varied services have also been supported by our range of annual fundraising events which not only helps keep the spotlight on mental health, but also gets the community involved. Unfortunately, the pandemic made it impossible to host our popular annual Granite Challenge cycling sportif, however, when we challenged our loyal band of cyclists to do it themselves, they didn’t disappoint – two wheeled bikers of all ages got involved, cycling in their own locale. Indeed, throughout the year, despite the restrictions, supporters’ enthusiasm wasn’t dampened and came out in the droves to fundraise for us.

To help mark World Mental Health Day, AMH produced four videos featuring David Babington in conversation with mental health representatives from the local political parties including Cara Hunter MLA (SDLP), Robbie Butler MLA (UUP), Paula Bradshaw MLA (All) and Órlaithí Flynn MLA (SF) discussing the need for better mental health services.

As we look forward to 2021, Christmas is one last event – a hurdle for many – and to mark the festive period in a year with a difference, our Elfie Day campaign was a rousing success, with the community continuing to fundraise for the charity. We compiled a very special Elfie advent calendar – spreading nothing but joy in a year many will be happy to put behind us. We brought you acts of kindness, tips on looking after your mental health, uplifting and motivational stories and quotes, favourite age-old Christmas traditions and much more. Here’s to a happier 2021 for everyone!

When Covid hit, Action Mental Health’s loyal supporters pulled out all the stops

The New Year began as most years do – with the traditional renewed hope for bigger and better things – a trademark of human nature. But 2020 had other things in store, for everyone, the world over.

For two months of 2020 we lived life in our own personal normality – then Covid-19 struck and turned everything on its head. And Action Mental Health, like most organisations throughout Northern Ireland and further afield, especially charities, braced itself for the unknown.

However, our wonderful supporters responded in typically resilient fashion. Myriad fun, scary and novel fundraising events were planned to raise money to support Action Mental Health’s wide-ranging recovery and resilience services for all ages, but Covid-19 plunged everything into uncertainty.

From sponsored abseils, walks, runs and rows, to Elfie parties, high teas and much more besides, the restrictive impact of the coronavirus have fired the imaginations of supporters. It has also acted as a catalyst for generous supporters to make personal donations, with many loyal – and countless new – friends of Action Mental Health setting up direct debits to help support the charity.

We have also seen our clients getting involved, with many taking on personal challenges to help raise funds and also to help provide them with an activity and a focus to help support their own mental health, whilst helping negate the isolation and other impacts of lockdown.

Fundraising is the backbone of much of the charity’s work and revolves around all our own services which we have in place to promote better mental health. Layered with the physical well-being that is characterised by much of our fundraisers’ efforts, the two elements have been more intertwined throughout 2020, despite the extraordinary difficulties and logistical challenges we have all faced.

Fundraising and Communications Manager Jonathan Smyth has praised the lengths people have gone to, to fulfil their fundraising commitments, despite the pandemic.

“We had so many events planned and even when the first total lockdown struck and we were largely confined to our homes, save for a single physical activity per day, people who had pledged to fundraise for Action Mental Health didn’t disappoint us. Despite all the obstacles, they managed to adapt their plans within the strict regulations.

“There has been such a massive variety of fundraising that has taken place in the community, illustrating a level of passion, innovation and determination of our supporters, that we have been blown away by. There have been running challenges, cycling, swimming, rowing, quizzes, people donating through their own talents, for example music, art and crafts and an endless list of other ways,” he added.

Christmas and New Year holidays.

Action Mental Health is now closed for the Christmas and New Year holidays. We will re-open on Monday 4th January 2021.

If you are in crisis please contact Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 or by Textphone on 18001 0808 808 8000, trained counsellors are available by phone 24/7.

You can also access support by contacting Samaritans on 116 123 or Childline on 0800 1111.

If you are seeking information on how to access counselling in the future, and you would like to find out more, or make a referral, you can do so by clicking here.

Day 23 #ElfieAdvent – One Thing

On Day 23 of our Elfie Advent Calendar we are revisiting a very powerful video created by clients at Action Mental Health a number of years ago that we hope will help people who find the festive season difficult to cope with. Our clients from AMH New Horizons in Ards share the ‘One Thing’ they have found that helps them negotiate the anxieties and depression that hinder their mental health.

From finding comfort in their families and loved ones, to walking outdoors, playing with their dog or using art as an outlet, their experiences will resonate with many – this year especially, when countless others are living with the uncertainty of the pandemic. What is your ‘One Thing?’

Clients from AMH New Horizons developed, scripted, filmed and acted in this short film which portrays some the difficulties of living with mental health issues.

Day 22 #ElfieAdvent – Hampers Galore!

Action Mental Health continues to be the recipient of kind acts and wonderful generosity. We are so thankful for everyone who has given their time, raised funds and been a part of AMH this year.

Many thanks to Quicklet who have kindly donated 75 Christmas hampers to the clients of Action Mental Health. As they were unable to have their usual Christmas staff party this year, the team at Quicklet thought it would be a good opportunity to donate the money to a local charity.They purchased festive food and wrestled with cellophane wrap to make up hampers to be spread out across AMH services in Lisburn, Lurgan and Belfast area, where Quicklet offices are also based.

Dee O’Reilly from Quicklet said

“We wanted to do something a bit more personal that just donating money so that’s where the hamper idea came from. Everyone is aware of the detrimental effects of coronavirus and we wanted to help promote “minding your mental health” given the isolation that this year has brought. I’m sure this Christmas will be hard for many people this year so if we can provide any sort of joy then we will be happy. We have offices in Belfast, Lisburn & Lurgan so we wanted to donate to a local charity so that the benefits could be felt in our community. 

All of the AMH staff have been a pleasure to talk to and the messages of appreciation that Quicklet have received are truly heartwarming. 

We wish you all a Happy Christmas and a better year in 2021!”

A big thank you from all at AMH New Horizons, Newry & Mourne to the Mater Private Radiology Department for the donation of 10 Beautiful Christmas Hampers.

Photograph L-R Michael, Joe, Kenny and Brendan with some of the Hampers.