All posts by actionmentalhealth

Care for yourself and others this Make a Difference Day

This year, more than ever, Make a Difference Day might be just what the doctor ordered to help us negotiate our way through the continuing pandemic.

Make A Difference Day has a simple objective: to volunteer in some way, or to give back to the community around you – to help make a difference. This year’s Make a Difference Day lands on Saturday, October 24, and for just one day, why not think of a way to make a positive difference to your own mental health, while helping others who might be in need of a helping hand or even a listening ear.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing are a good place to start. By adopting its key principles – Connect, Take Notice, Keep Learning, Give and Keep Active – you’ll not only help support your own mental health, you’ll also reap the rewards that come with the altruism of helping others.

You can promote better mental health and wellbeing in yourself if you Take Notice and Keep Active. Just by getting outside and appreciating the beauty of the natural environment, you’ll be benefiting from the proven mental health benefits these principles bring, like reducing stress. Just choose your favourite way to enjoy nature and reap its rich rewards. 

To make a difference to others, why not Give – of yourself and your time. Why not consider fundraising for a favourite charity – like Action Mental Health – because there are still many ways to do so online, despite the pandemic. You could even help an elderly relative or neighbour do their shopping, or even visit them at their doorstep for a chat, while adhering to the current social distancing restrictions. Giving not only benefits those in receipt of your generosity, it also improves our sense of worth and a feeling of purpose.

You can also make a positive difference within yourself if you Keep Learning. Learning new skills not only opens up your life to limitless possibilities, it also stimulates a boost in self-confidence and provides you with a genuine sense of purpose.

Probably most important of all in these times of the continuing restrictions on our movements, now is the time to Connect. It may have to be via the telephone, or via online video chat, but you’ll still benefit from the mutual interaction with someone you love, or who you know has been particularly lonely throughout the pandemic.

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

So remember, to help Make A Difference the options are limitless:

Volunteer – to help someone in need in any way they need, within current restrictions;

Fundraisecontact our fundraising team for lots of ideas!

Pick up litter – as the world focuses on the pandemic many will also turn their attention to the outdoors to help them cope. If it’s very untidy, and strewn with litter, it will have a detrimental impact on everyone hoping to enjoy it. Even if you pick up one item, it will make a difference, especially if you encourage others (for example on social media) we can all enjoy a cleaner environment;

Read to someone –  to an older person with poor eyesight, even if it’s over the phone or online;

Reminisce with an older person and play their favourite music – even if online, asking older people to recount their past can rekindle wonderful memories, especially those with memory loss and dementia. Playing their favourite music from their younger years is particularly useful.

Let us know how you made a difference!

When it rains, look for rainbows

L-R -Gillian Carr, AMH Peripatetic Service Manager and Rae Watterson, Marketing Executive, The Mac.

Leading arts venue and creative hub, the MAC has teamed up with local charitable and community organisations to promote creativity as a vital tool for mental wellbeing and developing new skills.

As part of its new ‘MACtivate’ programme, the MAC has distributed hundreds of art packs to their five associate partners, Action Mental Health, Alliance for Choice, Extern, Participation

and Practice of Rights and The Rainbow Project, capturing artwork from a range of backgrounds to be exhibited in a special exhibition in their Tall Gallery. This will coincide with exhibitions from professional artists Peter Liversidge and Frederic Huska in their Upper and Sunken galleries.

‘In a Rainbow of Coalitions’ will open later this month and will be home to hundreds of homemade creations from children, families and groups – budding artists and amateurs – from all walks of life. It is hoped the rainbow, which quickly became a symbol of hope during the pandemic, will help spread positivity and encourage others to get creative.

Gillian Carr, Service Manager at Action Mental Health explained why they got involved in the project and how it helped to support participants. She said:

“Using the arts is an effective and enjoyable way to relax, show your creative side and to learn new skills. That’s exactly why the MAC’s rainbow project was the perfect fit for many of our clients, providing them with another very positive way to support their recovery from mental ill-health.

“Taking part also encourages interaction with others and helps improve communication and social skills, which can be really useful when looking for future employment or volunteering opportunities. Many of our clients will be able to use these skills to help with prospective job searches and as valuable techniques for dealing with life’s challenges.”

Jen White, Creative Programmes Manager at the MAC added:

“We want everyone and anyone to be able to access and participate in the arts, so we were delighted to be able to provide these packs with the help of the team at Play Resource and artist Miguel Martin who we commissioned to create special activity sheets.

“Many people created their own rainbows as heartfelt messages of thanks to our amazing frontline workers and they have been so important in helping to keep spirits high during this really difficult time. We want to celebrate that outpouring of creativity by providing a home for these very special works of art, as they deserve pride of place in our finest galleries.”

‘In a Rainbow of Coalitions’ opens on Wednesday 28th October and runs until 24th January 2021. The closing date for outstanding submissions has now closed.

For more information on this special exhibition and how to get involved, visit

Northern Ireland Youth Wellbeing Survey

Amanda Jones, Action Mental Health’s Operations Manager Resilience and Wellbeing, has today welcomed the publication of the findings from the Northern Ireland Youth Wellbeing Survey.

Amanda commented:

“This is a vital piece of research which supports the evidence we see and hear each and every day from children, young people and those who care for them, right across Northern Ireland. The survey showed that 12.6% of children and young people in Northern Ireland experience common mood disorders such as anxiety and depression – around 25% higher than in other UK nations, reflecting similar trends we see in adults across Northern Ireland.

The survey also highlighted the complex and multi-faceted reasons behind these issues, including exposure to family trauma and adversity, poor child health and disability, having special educational needs, living in a household in receipt of social security benefits, and parental mental health. The survey showed particular issues with older children, including older teenage girls. The survey showed this particular group had the highest rates of anxiety and depression, but the study also demonstrated that the issues start at a very young age, with particularly high rates amongst young boys aged 5-10.

Action Mental Health has been delivering services to help promote early intervention and prevention for almost twenty years and as a local charity with local expertise, we have developed these services to help meet the very specific set of circumstances we face in Northern Ireland. We are seeing ever-increasing demand for our services and are heavily reliant on fundraising by the local community to help us meet that demand. The impact of the pandemic on fundraising income and on demand for our services demonstrates the need for more statutory funding of these vital services to ensure their long term sustainability.

The eagerly anticipated ten-year mental health strategy offers us a unique opportunity to really prioritise early intervention and prevention at all ages, but especially with our children and young people. Investing in these services now, will ensure a healthier and more resilient population in the years ahead.”  

The Youth Wellbeing Survey was commissioned by the Health and Social Care Board. The survey and report were compiled by Ulster University, Queen’s University Belfast, and the Mental Health Foundation, over 18 months.

You can find out more about the survey by clicking here.

World Mental Health Day celebrated in style!

What a week it has been! We thought we would capture just some of the activities our staff, clients, partners and supporters got up to! Despite the restrictions, enthusiasm to mark World Mental Health Day on 10 October was as high as ever –

Action Mental Health’s Projects & Services

Our team from the Our Generation project got together on Friday to celebrate with a coffee over zoom. The team are spread throughout Northern Ireland and have been out and about in schools with AMH’s Healthy Me programme.

Staff & clients from AMH New Horizons Belfast also got together for a ‘Cup of Kindness’ to celebrate via Zoom. Whilst enjoying a morning cuppa they reflected on the acts of kindness that have had a positive impact on their mental health during these challenging times

The team from AMH New Horizons in Downpatrick held an on-line quiz with clients and had the best of craic!

On the run up to World Mental Health Day Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Kevin Savage and Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Kyle Savage visited the AMH Garden Nursery at Tannaghmore Gardens and received some gardening tips from, John Sim, Skills Coach, Colin Loughran, Service Manager and John Walsh, Skills Coach!

The Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Jim Montgomery launched ‘The Art of Recovery’ exhibition at the Conservatory Gallery at Antrim Castle Gardens as part of the World Mental Health Day celebrations
This exhibition is a showcase of works by artists from AMH New Horizons, Antrim and will run daily until Thursday 29 October.

AMH Works took part in The Law Society’s Well-being Day, and AMH trainer Connor Grogan, along with LawCare, gave a talk entitiled – “Managing Stress and Building Resilience through Uncertain Times”. There was very positive feedback including moe solicitor who said “I found the talks helpful given the current climate.  I also found the colour code/traffic light system details informative and a useful check on how work pressures have affected mental wellbeing in more recent months”.

AMH MensSana were out and about in schools and colleges delivering Healthy Me, Provoking Thought and also offering on-line sessions of the PHA funded Mindset, Healthy Me for school staff and Mindful Manager.

Pic : Yr6 Phoenix Integrated Primary School

Patricia Kelly Service Manager – Workable and Shelly Wilson AMH Works manager took part in the Northern Regional College’s Webinar ‘Mental Health Wellbeing in the Workplace During C-19 Pandemic’

We were delighted to have over 75 people join our AMH Works Mental Health First Aid seminar. Thanks to all for attending. Special thanks to our speakers from PHA, Queen’s University, Belfast City Council, Caterpillar NI & Collins Aerospace.

AMH on the campaign trail and sharing expertise

Our Chief Executive was also kept busy this week! David Babington, got together via zoom with some of our local MLAs – Sinn Féin’s Órlaithí Flynn, Robbie Butler of the Ulster Unionist Party, Paula Bradshaw of the Alliance Party and the SDLP’s Cara Hunter, to talk about mental health services, recent developments and their hopes for sector. You can watch all the videos here.

David also joined Prof Deirdre Heenan, Paula Bradley MLA, Colm Gildernew MLA, Prof Gerry Lynch, Dr Alan Stout and others to discuss health and social cares services in NI

Pic: @PolicyNI

David then delivered a presentation on Innovation and the Third Sector at the Menhir International Doctoral School! AMH is one of the partners in this exciting project. Read more about it here.

David, Amanda Jones and Jonny Smyth also got together with the Minister for Education Peter Weir MLA to update him our resilience programmes in schools and our plans for their development within Education sector. Following the meeting the minister tweeted “I am committed to do all I can to support emotional well-being & resilience across our sector”.

Fundraising & raising awareness

AMH Lisburn’s Sinead McCarry completed the Virtual London Marathon in the rain, cheered on by her family – well done Sinead!

Unfortunately our annual Granite Challenge had to be cancelled this year but we challenged all our GC cyclists of all ages and skill levels to clock up as many kilometres as they could in the week of World Mental Health Day, our DIY Granite Challenge was an exciting opportunity for our friends in the cycling world (and beyond) to get on their bikes, enjoy the great outdoors and raise vital funds for Action Mental Health.

Many answered the call including Mark Kinkaid from AMH New Horizons Lisburn.

Mark explained why he was raising money for Action Mental Health in the do-it-yourself cycling challenge.

“I suffer from mental health issues, and have done for over 23 years. I also love cycling, so doing this challenge for a mental health charity is a win win for me”. You can read more here.

A team from the Datactics Runners and Riders club took part in the DIY Granite Challenge, racking up a total of 338 miles in support of @amhNI! The team included Matthew Flenley, Kieran Buchanan, Marcus Lamb, and David Brown.

Thanks to all the cyclists who joined in the DIY Granite Challenge – we hope to see you at the top of Spelga next year!

At the start of the week 15 fearless fundraisers descended the iconic Belfast Castle in some typically Northern Irish conditions! The weather did not dampen the spirits of those taking part and we thank all our wonderful participants and Bryson LaganSports for holding a safe and highly enjoyable event.

Our very own Rosie Maguire from the Our Generation Team was also joined by Amanda Watson from our fundraising team and Roisin Kelly an AMH Board Member

Board Member Roisin Kelly got the whole family involved! The Kelly’s were busy all week having fun, raising awareness and vital funds. Roisin completed the Belfast Castle Abseil and the family also took part in the Ice Bucket Challenge bbbrrrrr!

pic: R Kelly

Mash Direct will be fundraising throughout the month of October for AMH.

To support World Mental Health Day and AMH, all the employees of local paving and walling manufacturer Tobermore – production & working from home – joined together in a ‘Wear your hat to work day!’

Our corporate partner Team CTS joined in our Go Purple campaign, raising awareness & money for AMH

Corporate partners Outsource were encouraging everyone to join them on World Mental Health Day to wear purple to raise awareness that mental health is as important as physical health

We were so grateful that to the council’s and organisations who answered our call to #GOPURPLE

Ulster University’s Magee Campus got behind this year’s #GOPURPLE campaign and supported the global call – ‘Mental Health For All – Greater Investment, Greater Access’.

Thanks to Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council who turned the Lagan Valley Island Centre purple

pic @antrim & newtownabbey borough council

Thanks to Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council who turned the Antrim Civic centre purple

Thanks to everyone who supported us this year!

World Mental Health Day 2020

#MentalHealthForALL #GreaterAccess #GreaterInvestment – David Babington in Conversation with local MLAs – a WorldMentalHealthDay special!

The need for greater investment in Northern Ireland’s mental health services is the key driver to a healthier and more resilient society, local MLAs have told Action Mental Health’s Chief Executive, David Babington, in specially filmed discussions ahead of World Mental Health Day (10th October 2020). Sinn Féin’s Órlaithí Flynn, Robbie Butler of the Ulster Unionist Party, Paula Bradshaw of the Alliance Party and the SDLP’s Cara Hunter, praised developments in Northern Ireland’s mental health services, including the appointment of an interim Mental Health Champion, plans for a Ten Year Mental Health Strategy and the year old Protect Life 2 strategy on suicide prevention, but all agreed more needs to be done to ensure comprehensive funding is secured and allocated properly.

The cross party speakers also talked about the issues closest to their hearts, stressing the need for greater addiction services for those with a dual diagnosis and the need to support the carers of those with mental health issues. Focus was also placed on the need for agile thinking in the face of the pandemic’s effects on Northern Ireland’s collective mental well-being.

Órlaithí Flynn, MLA of Sinn Féin addressed the great strides achieved in mental health in Northern Ireland within the last year, stating those developments need comprehensive guaranteed investment to keep the momentum going, but pointed to greater efforts required to plug the gap in addiction services for those also experiencing mental ill health. She also issued a message of hope for those most affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

David Babington in conversation with Órlaithí Flynn MLA Sinn Féin

Paula Bradshaw MLA, Alliance Party, raised the struggle of carers looking after people with mental health issues and said they must not be left ‘voiceless’ in the new mental health strategy. She also pointed to her chairpersonship of the All-Party group on cancer and suggested the Cancer Strategy and its varied work streams could perhaps be used as a model to replicate within the development of the mental health strategy.

David Babington in conversation with Paula Bradshaw Alliance

Cara Hunter, MLA of the SDLP said she was heartened by the Assembly’s commitment to mental health and reiterated the urgent need for addiction and substance abuse services, particularly for those with mental health issues. She noted that things are starting to change, in part to cross party support and collaboration.

David Babington in conversation with Cara Hunter SDLP

Robbie Butler, MLA UUP, said the past year’s developments in mental health had brought the issue to everyone’s lips, and echoed calls for greater investments in prevention and intervention in education, commerce and all strands of society to create a better ‘meshed and melded’ approach to mental health promotion. He further urged caution among those, particularly the most vulnerable, to prevent them from being overwhelmed by the ‘bombardment’ of news coverage and information on the ever-changing Covid-19 guidelines.

Many thanks to everyone who took part in this World Mental Health Day special – Action Mental Health joins with the global call for Greater Investment, Greater Access and Mental Health for All.

We will continue to lobby and work with the political and statutory sectors to ensure that our clients, service users and the wider community can look forward to a future of appropriate, accessible and fully funded services that will make a positive difference to mental well-being in NI.

Go Purple this October!

We’re calling on schools, businesses, community groups, sports clubs and individuals to get involved and Go Purple this October to help mark World Mental Health Day and to help raise vital Funds to support our work.

You can find out more about how to get involved by speaking to our Fundraising Team on 028 9182 8494 or by emailing

You can click here to set up a fundraising page right now!

Could your school organise a sponsored Purple Mile Walk to help get everyone active, whilst raising funds? Or maybe you could organise a socially distanced Purple Coffee Morning in your workplace. What about a Purple themed Zoom quiz with friends?

Action Mental Health continues to provide vital services across Northern Ireland and whilst demand for our services continues to grow, our fundraising income has been greatly reduced.

You can help by signing up today and getting involved in our Go Purple campaign this October!

World Mental Health Day with a worldwide difference

Action Mental Health will, this year, be marking World Mental Health Day amid unusual times, during a global pandemic no one could have foreseen.

This year the theme is – Mental Health for All, Greater Investment, Greater Access.

The crisis has dramatically transformed the way people live and work and has brought the issue of mental health onto centre stage like never before.

Despite the upheaval of the pandemic however, Action Mental Health staff have been working tirelessly to continue supporting its hundreds of clients across Northern Ireland, finding creative solutions to help them through the vocational and therapeutic sessions they are undertaking.

AMH New Horizons staff have introduced blended learning, incorporating face-to-face sessions with online services, even equipping many with tablets to ensure no client was left isolated or without access to the staff they have come to know and trust. Whilst the team at AMH New Life Counselling have continued to provide counselling sessions to clients in a range of innovative ways.

Action Mental Health annually kicks off its comprehensive calendar of events during the week of WMHD day with its eagerly awaited Granite Challenge. But with Covid restrictions limiting numbers this year, it is going DIY – offering participants new and old, advanced and novices alike the chance to take part in 2020. You can cycle for as far as you want in a venue of your choice while raising money to support the vital work of Action Mental Health.

You can read more here and still register by visiting:

On the activity front, the rescheduled Belfast Castle Abseil is now taking place this week, offering thrill seekers the chance to face their fears by scaling down the iconic city landmark, taking in amazing scenery. Additional measures are in place to keep participants safe and to ensure everyone adheres to current public health guidance.

Around Northern Ireland, a number of other iconic civic buildings will be embracing WMHD day, joining Action Mental Health in Going Purple to support our awareness and fundraising raising efforts.

For our annual #GoPurple event, AMH asks schools, businesses, churches, community groups, sports clubs and individuals to get involved, throughout October, to help raise awareness of positive mental health and also raise vital funds to support our services across Northern Ireland. Demand for our services continues to increase at a time when our fundraising income has been greatly reduced. All support received will make a real difference to local people.

In the North West, the beautiful Guild Hall will join AMH New Horizons Foyle clients who are going purple by illuminating the grand building, alongside the city’s Playhouse, VOID and the Derry City and Strabane District Council offices.

At AMH New Horizons Lisburn, clients will host a Go Purple coffee morning, while at AMH New Horizons Antrim’s behest, Antrim and Newtownabbey Council will also flood its three civic buildings in purple. AMH New Horizons Antrim will also be hosting its annual Art of Recovery art exhibition, featuring the artistry of clients, with the mayor, Councillor Jim Montgomery opening the popular event. The exhibition will run from October 6 to 29 at Clotworthy House, Antrim Castle Gardens. Staff at New Horizons Downpatrick will be treating clients to an online quiz, giving them a chance to pit their wits against each other in aid of WMHD.

AMH’s MensSana’s Healthy Me sessions, which promote positive mental health and well-being through interactive sessions at Northern Ireland’s primary schools, will be hosting special zoom sessions for teachers.

Through one-hour webinar sessions teachers will be encouraged to identify issues faced since returning to school from lockdown; raise awareness about the importance of looking after your mental health and highlight self-care techniques for building resilience and confidence. The sessions will also show how, and where, to access support and further information.

And that’s not all! AMH Works is hosting a Mental Health First Aid networking event to encourage Northern Ireland businesses to adopt and implement the training, which is designed to support employees’ mental health and well-being prior to them seeking specialist medical assistance. The event will feature a fantastic line up of panel members from a range of sectors and participants will have the opportunity to learn about what Mental Health First Aid is, the benefits of implementing it and the barriers organisations may be facing.

AMH Works has also been providing the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) for their ambulance personnel to better equip the frontline staff in circumstances involving people at risk of suicide or in the aftermath.

Our AMH MensSana team will also be hosting ‘Open’ Mindset and Provoking Thought sessions, these are AMH’s positive mental health and well-being promotion programmes designed for young people.

Follow us on social media to find out what else we will be up to!

Creative relay running across Northern Ireland’s AMH services in the time of the pandemic

Action Mental Health’s energetic team of peripatetic skills coaches have given new meaning to ‘relay running’, traversing Northern Ireland, raising awareness and funds as part of AMH’s Virtual Fitness Fundraiser, hosted to celebrate National Fitness Day in September.

The ‘Peripatetic Pacers’ clocked up the miles, running laps between some of Action Mental Health’s services across Northern Ireland – digitally.

The fast-paced gang weren’t content to let the restrictions of the ongoing pandemic stop them, so instead of physically passing the baton to each other, they used some clever artistic licence and a new short film to do so.

The team passed the virtual baton to each other from Downpatrick to Newtownards, Newtownards to Antrim, Derriaghy to Antrim, Antrim to Belfast, Belfast to Craigavon, and back from Craigavon to Derriaghy

The pacers did their laps on roads near AMH services and on treadmills at home, where they have been helping deliver blended services to clients both in the service and via online methods.   

In just a week, the team ran 170 miles, raising £1075 but money is still being counted so if you would like to add to the total please go to their fundraising page: