All posts by actionmentalhealth

Nurture yourself with nature for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week

It’s official, this year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is Connect with Nature: embracing it, getting out into it and nurturing your time while you enjoy all the sights, sounds and aromas that go with it!

The organisation behind this annual awareness campaign, The Mental Health Foundation, set the theme based on their research into the Coronavirus pandemic. This revealed that access to nature has been one of the mainstays favoured by many of us as a useful tool to help support our mental health during recent lockdowns.

Mental Health Foundation CEO, Mark Rowland said:

“Our role each year for Mental Health Awareness Week is to start a national conversation on the issues which affect our mental health and the changes needed to protect and support it. The evidence is clear that access to nature is crucial for our mental health and millions of people rediscovered that during lockdowns this year.  However, this was not the same for all of us. We want to explore why nature is so vital for our mental health and the barriers that currently exist to enjoying those benefits.” 

So while green spaces – whether private or shared – have been a sanctuary during the pandemic, we also know in general, the importance and healing power of what is now referred to as the Natural Health Service.

Just being surrounded by nature, taking a walk or choosing to go al fresco at meal times, can all impact our well-being in a very positive way. Short, measured exposure to a little sunlight tops up vitamin D levels, getting active keeps us healthy, keeping social – albeit at a distance – keeps us connected, taking an interest in our surroundings and actually noticing wildlife, trees, shrubs and flowers, all give us the chance to learn a little more and to experience the natural healing power of nature.

Image by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

Nature has scientifically proven benefits to our mental health. Not only does it enhance our emotional well-being, it also alleviates feelings of social isolation – an issue which has had a negative impact on so many during the lockdown.

And while nature provides fundamental support to human survival, immersion in nature also helps people suffering from mental health conditions like different forms of anxiety and depression, certain attention disorders and mood disorders.

Activities outdoors boosts the levels of chemicals in our bodies, called endorphins and serotonin. Induced by exercise like walking, these chemicals reduce pain and improve our mood. Whatever activity you choose, it improves self-perception and self-esteem, and even the quality of our sleep.

We live busy lives, lost in thought with our ‘to do’ lists, future expectations and past regrets. It can be very difficult to become really present in the here and now. Practice makes it easier. Here are a few suggestions to help you ‘just be’ in the moment:

  • Learn a little, as curiosity is a great distraction, so take photos, draw or write your experiences down.
  • Bring nature indoors – grow your own food or enjoy a potted plant.
  • Natural scents add to your senses; listen to the sounds of nature and feel grounded   as you touch the earth beneath you.
  • Walk, run or take an outdoor exercise class.
  • Relax in nature on your own or in a socially-distanced group.

Nature is your portal for calm, helping to reduce anxiety and stress-related symptoms and boosting the immune system. Connect with it in any way you can. Find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week, May 10-16 visit:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/northern-ireland

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

Rotary Club helps AMH New Horizons clients stay ‘smart’

Dr Paul McConnell, President of The Rotary Club of Lisburn, (left) visited Action Mental Health New Horizons service in the town to see the new smart TV they kindly provided funding for, with Eoin McAnuff, Service Manager.

Smart technology has helped Action Mental Health clients feel less lonely and isolated during the lockdown, thanks to a generous donation by The Rotary Club.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, which had a significant impact on the way AMH New Horizons Lisburn delivered services, all of its activities ­– including accredited vocational courses, arts and crafts – had to be moved online.

Now, as restrictions begin to ease, clients are being offered a mixture of online and in-house training at the charity’s recently re-opened Lisburn premises at Railway Street.

The blended learning approach facilitate clients who are shielding and too anxious to engage in person in classes, and allows them to engage with those physically present at the service.

This engagement has been aided by the Rotary Club of Lisburn which has provided support to purchase a smart TV. The new television will be used by AMH New Horizons staff to make the delivery of this blended approach more seamless, affording clients the benefit of participating in courses including stress management, self-development and resilience building.

AMH New Horizons Lisburn Service Manager, Eoin McAnuff said: “Dr Paul McConnell, President of The Rotary Club of Lisburn, recently visited the service to see the new smart TV they kindly provided the funding for. This investment in new technology will enable us to delivered a blended approach to our training.

“This technology is a real game changer for how we deliver our services. It enables us to engage to a wider audience delivering a range of accredited and non-accredited training programmes aimed at improving the mental health and well-being of those taking part. We’d like to thank the Rotary Club for their generous support,” Mr McAnuff added.

The approach taken by staff to facilitate clients during the lockdown has enabled the majority of the diverse array of courses on offer at New Horizons, from arts and crafts to accredited courses designed to help people get back to education, training and employment.

Dr Paul McConnell, President of The Rotary Club Of Lisburn, commented: “At a time when health concerns are forefront in our minds, these newly renovated premises and facilities in the old Quaker building on Railway Street are a shining example of Action for Mental Health.

“Our Rotary Club is delighted to be part of this, their “New Horizon”, and to support Eoin McAnuff and his dedicated support team. Well done!”

Local Alliance councillor, Sorcha Eastwood was among guests to view the facilities of the recently relaunched service. “The team at AMH New Horizons are all doing such valuable work. It is really important that links between gaining confidence and a sense of purpose, are made, to maintain good mental health – it means we can better support each other to stay well.”

One of the clients, Susanne Berrill, commented: “It has been a lifeline; it has made it possible to connect with people I haven’t seen in a while and has been great for my mental health.”

“I find it is good; it has helped me feel connected to people whenever I am not physical able to.  It has made me feel included and the classes give me a routine and keep my brain active. Because of blended learning, I feel better about myself and its lovely to have support from clients and staff which I otherwise may not have had,” agreed Emma, another client.

The programmes delivered at AMH New Horizons service are part of 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.

Your 5 Steps to Garden Wellbeing

 The UK’s estimated number of households with a garden has risen to 90% with half of the population classed as gardeners. Not surprisingly, gardening is an important national pastime with many of you enjoying your outdoor green space. The perennially popular National Gardening Week got underway this week and getting outdoors, so widespread during recent lockdown measures, offers an escape and a way to be at one with nature.

Stress is a worldwide problem causing physical problems such as high blood pressure, digestive issues and muscle tension. Long-term stress can lead to serious health issues including anxiety and depression. The great thing about gardening is that current research shows stress levels which impact on mental health and wellbeing may be reduced. 

Here are your five steps to garden wellbeing:

  • 1. Get outside & connect with and pay attention to nature.
  • 2. Learn new skills & plant for the future. 
  • 3. Be active – always plenty of jobs to do!
  • 4. Connect with others – at a socially distanced level.
  • 5. Give something back . . . something you’ve grown or even your time.

Where to grow and why . . .

Growing whether privately in your own garden, in window boxes or vertically if your green space is a balcony, or communally; in shared spaces such as allotments or community gardens, not only offers a source of physical activity, but also gives independence and helps reduce loneliness and stress. 

Engaging with others in a social environment is likely to initiate conversations while developing new knowledge and skills. There is also emerging evidence that the associated activity may be useful in preventing falls by maintaining balance and keeping people active. All great news for this wonderful outdoor activity which also brings achievement and enjoyment through the production of fruit, vegetables, flowers and landscaping your space, no matter how modest.


Did you know ??

In many of our services, Action Mental Health offer clients the opportunity to take part in Horticulture classes and gain qualifications, we also have 2 garden centres – open to the public – in Tannaghmore, County Armagh (T 028 3834 2220) and Downpatrick, County Down (T 028 4461 3791). The “Shedders” attending the AMH Men’s Sheds in Fermanagh, Steeple Antrim and Downpatrick are also keen gardeners, growing their own food to use in their catering classes! They also build a range of garden furniture and planters for visitors to buy. Get in touch to find out more!


Find your garden happy at #NationalGardeningWeek 

National Gardening Week runs from Monday 26 April – Sunday 2 May 2021.

Practicing what we preach at Action Mental Health to prick pandemic stress bubble

Today is National Workplace Wellbeing Day #WorkWell21. Ibec (Ireland’s largest lobby and business representative group) have been encouraging organisations to focus on social, mental and physical well-being this April.

The team at Action Mental Health have been practicing what they preach to help support well-being in an initiative to mark #StressAwarenessMonth.

Employees have been taking part in quizzes, 80s exercise classes, undertaking self-care and stress management sessions and also walking round their local area to appreciate nature while getting active. Each of the activities have been based on the principles of the Five Ways to Well-Being.

“Give Yourself A Break”

Like most global workforces, employees of the AMH network have been working in isolation from home for the majority of the pandemic, being denied the camaraderie of working alongside colleagues.

As a result, AMH’s resilience and well-being teams collaborated to devise a programme to bring together the disparate teams across the charity’s diverse services throughout Northern Ireland.

Action Mental Health’s MensSana service joined with its sister initiative, the Our Generation project and AMH Works, to host seven well-being events based on the tenets of the Five Ways to Well-Being.

Stress Awareness

The Five Ways were established to support and promote better mental health and encourage people to learn, connect, take notice, keep active, and to give.

AMH’s Amanda Jones stated: “Encouraging staff to learn, AMH Works has been teaching them how to manage stress and build resilience to help them face the personal and professional challenges which have emerged during the pandemic. The service’s programme provided staff with top tips on recognising their own stress levels, advice on reducing stressors at this time and signposted them to further support if they needed it.

Staff were also prompted to give – by getting themselves a much deserved break – and to practice self-care during the continuing restrictions on our freedom of movement as a result of the lockdown. Staff who took part were led through relaxation exercises, learning the techniques to help them unwind and recharge after a busy day at work

Quiz Time!

The importance of connecting was facilitated by coffee and quiz sessions which had staff pitting their knowledge against each other as they enjoyed a bit of craic and banter. The sessions brought together staff from across Action Mental Health’s services across Northern Ireland, many of whom were meeting for the very first time during the Zoom events.

Everyone was encouraged to get active as well, as part of the well-being initiative, promoting the scientifically proven benefits activity offers our mental health. And at AMH we got active by going retro, and taking part in the 80s Fit with Bruno sessions. Those who had packed away the 1980s leg warmers and leotards in the roofspace, got them out, dusted them off and donned them for the online fitness sessions led by personal trainer Bruno Machado to some iconic tunes from the era.

Finally, staff were advised to take notice by the mindful mile challenge. For the challenge, employees were encouraged to head out for a walk at lunchtime, noticing their surroundings that they might miss while rushing through the business of their hectic lives, home schooling and back-to-back Zoom meetings. Staff was asked to take photos of their locale on their brief walk and to share in a staff show and tell, while enjoying a cuppa together.

Sam, from Action Mental Health’s Fundraising Department said: “The quiz was such fun and it was so good to see the faces of many colleagues I haven’t seen in nearly a year. It lifted my spirits.”

John from AMH New Horizons Antrim said: “Taking part in the Stress Awareness Week quiz activity provided me with an opportunity with some down time during my working day to take part in a fun activity with colleagues across the organisation. We all had a bit of fun and a laugh and still could not win even with two of us on the team. I appreciated the time away from my desk.”

Pre-covid it was easier to have a laugh and a joke with colleagues but it is more challenging now as we are primarily working online,” said Gillian our Peripatetic Service Manager. “Hopefully AMH do it again and give us some notice so John and I will have plenty of time to revise. That way we might actually get a couple of questions right,” she quipped.

Mindful Manager

AMH Works is a mental health training and consultancy service working with some of Northern Ireland and the UK’s leading organisations.

Our programmes teach the skills needed to support and maintain healthy resilient workplaces for every level of employee. Our programmes have a proven positive impact on health and wellness, reducing sickness absence and can help to make your workplace a more effective and resilient place to work.

AMH Works offer a programme of interactive and engaging training courses for all levels of employees. One of our most popular is The Mindful Manager.

The main aims of the mindful manager workshop are to give managers the tools required to identify issues staff may be having in the workplace and equip them with the conversational skills to facilitate a solution before issues cause significant loss of productivity/absenteeism. Participants will learn and apply their knowledge through a series of interactive, thought-provoking and group discussion based activities. Participants will also learn and apply the mindful manager model – a unique and simple tool that can be used to support employees with their mental wellbeing and direct both the individual and their employer to local support should they need it.

Here’s what some of our recent trainees had to say –


To find out more about our AMH Works’ programmes click here or email Rachael Power – rpower@amh.org.uk


Personal Resilience

Giving employees and employers the tools to cope with the pressure & stress

AMH Works are specialists in mental health and emotional well-being training and consultancy, working with some of NI’s and the UK’s leading employers. Our training programmes enable individuals to gain the skills for personal well-being and to contribute to healthy, resilient workplaces. We offer the option of online training and face to face training at your business premises by a qualified and professional trainer with the provision of follow up support where appropriate.

One of our most popular courses is the 2 hour bite sized – Personal Resilience Workshop.

The main aims of the personal resilience workshop are to equip employees and employers with the best methods to cope with the pressures and stresses of life, whilst providing an overview of stress and thought management through an evidence-based, informative and supportive structure. Participants will learn how to look after their own mental and physical wellbeing with lifestyle choices and will also be provided with the opportunity to engage in short moments of relaxation mindfulness.

Find out more about our programmes here.


Find out more about our AMH Works’ programmes click here or email Rachael Power – rpower@amh.org.uk

AMH Works helps de-stress Northern Ireland workforces right through the pandemic

Northern Ireland businesses coping with employee stress during the ongoing pandemic have been supported by Action Mental Health’s specialist employer service, AMH Works.

Throughout the past year, AMH Works has been tireless in its effort to meet growing demand for its various training programmes, which help employers support healthy, resilient workplaces – even if they’ve moved to employees’ kitchens.

In ‘normal’ times, AMH Works develops the skills and learning required to effectively manage employee mental well-being in the workplace. Courses available help workplace managers address mental ill-health in the workplace, offer mental health awareness training, stress awareness, personal resilience programmes and mental health first aid, as well as specialist guidance on spotting those at risk of suicidal thoughts – Safetalk.

AMH Works delivers mental health training and consultancy services to some of the Top 100 companies in Northern Ireland and the UK, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Allstate NI and Schrader Electronics.

When lockdown happened last April and the AMH Works team found themselves working from home, like so many other teams and employees across the UK, it was recognised that COVID-19 and the subsequent changes introduced as a result, would have an impact on the well-being of so many.

In a short space of time AMH Works was able to adapt its well-being courses to online delivery to ensure continuity of support to clients, to help keep their employees’ well-being prioritising during this difficult time.

The team from AMH Works created new courses that looked specifically at how people could manage their stress and build resilience whilst working from home. They also produced free tool kits that were shared with clients, and on social media, to try and ensure that people could access support of some kind.

AMH Works Stats – April 2020 to March 2021

AMH Works Project Manager Rachael Power offered words of assurance:

“As we come out of lockdown and some work places are opening up, we hope that organisations will recognise that this may be a difficult transition for some employees and they will continue to offer them well-being support.

“This period of transition may involve difficult conversations taking place between managers and staff, but we can provide your staff with training to ensure they feel prepared and confident to manage these conversations in a positive and empathetic manner through our Mindful Manager programme,” she said.

“We also offer a course that looks specifically at Covid, Stress and returning to work/campus which would be beneficial for all staff during this period of transition,” she added.

As Northern Ireland moves forward, the AMH Works team is looking forward to being able to offer its full range of our training courses in person, as well as continuing to deliver online.

“We want to be able to deliver our courses in whichever way is best for our client and their employees.”


Find out more about our AMH Works’ programmes click here or email Rachael Power – rpower@amh.org.uk

Stress Awareness Month – AMH Works providing quality mental health training programmes for employers to support healthy, resilient workplaces.

We all experience stress in different ways throughout our daily lives. Recognised as a significant factor affecting our mental health, it can exacerbate anxiety and depression. Stress is also known to impact our physical health, either as a causal or additional factor, through conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, immune system dysfunction, insomnia and digestive problems.    

The current pandemic has understandably increased our stress levels. In particular, an escalation has been evident in the three known, key causes of stress – disconnection, uncertainty and a loss of control.

The great news is that once we can identify our own sources of stress, we are in a better place to tackle it. Looking after yourself and making time for self-care, exercise, eating well and relaxation, are all crucial in minimising your stress levels.

We experience stress at home and of course, stress at work, and just as Action Mental Health supports and promotes positive mental health across society in Northern Ireland, it also boasts a dedicated service for the workplace – AMH Works.

In ‘normal’ times, AMH Works provides quality mental health training programmes for employers to support healthy, resilient workplaces. It helps employers to develops the skills and learning required to effectively manage employee mental well-being in the workplace and also delivers mental health training and consultancy services to some of the Top 100 companies in Northern Ireland and the UK. These include Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Allstate NI and Schrader Electronics among others.

Responding to these unprecedented times of lockdown, AMH Works has continued to respond to employee well-being needs in innovative and effective ways. It has undoubtedly been a bit different for employers to navigate this year, but AMH Works has here to help.  With a suite of evidence based mental health and well-being training programmes and a wealth of expertise in workplace well-being, AMH Works can support employers to promote positive mental health for employees and create a healthy and more resilient workplace. 

Whatever your source of stress, be it work or another aspect of life, talking about your feelings of stress with your family, friends and colleagues can help reduce the burden of facing it alone. It can also help reduce the stigma, and by sharing your own experience, and your own individual coping mechanisms, you might just help someone else facing a similar situation. Showing compassion and empathy for others going through stressful situations is also so important, as we all need a little help from time to time.

This year’s Stress Awareness Month theme has focused on ‘Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control’, three aspects of life that have largely been victims of the pandemic. But as we ease out of lockdown, you can help to de-stress your life, at home or at work, by participating in Stress Awareness Month’s 30-Day Challenge, which has encouraged people to choose a daily action for each of our physical, mental and emotional well-being. As it takes 30 days to turn actions into habits, the challenge has been helping us maximise our chances of turning useful knowledge and techniques into positive behavioural change.

Why not start your own 30-day challenge to tackle the sources of stress in your life? Choose a date to suit you and set aside time to begin good habits to last a lifetime.

For more information simply visit https://www.stress.org.uk/30daychallenge/ and download your 30-Day Challenge Calendar from the resource page.


Find out more about our AMH Works’ programmes click here or email Rachael Power – rpower@amh.org.uk