All posts by actionmentalhealth

My Journey with Action Mental Health

I was referred by my psychiatrist to Action Mental Health New Horizons, Derriaghy and started on 20th Jan 2016.

I had an initial meeting with the Client Development Co-ordinator. I felt afraid and extremely nervous, as I didn’t really know anything about AMH and the service it provided and I lacked confidence and self-esteem, and my social life was non-existent because my friends and family didn’t really understand ‘mental health’.

After my initial meeting, I still felt nervous but not as afraid ‘of the unknown’ because she explained everything that was on offer to me and reassured me that I wasn’t under any pressure to attend the service. I was offered various classes that I could attend and I decided to start with Confidence and Self-Esteem.

When I walked into the reception area for my first class and saw people sitting there, I felt intimidated and started to doubt my own abilities, I thought;

–              I have to find a seat at the back and keep my head down! (Ice-breakers really help with this).

–              What am I doing here? – The other people looked so confident and comfortable.

–              Will anyone recognise me? – Because I didn’t want anyone to know I came here.

–              How many people are in the class? Panic….. Is this going to be like school?

–              Will I have to talk? – Whoa!

—           Self-doubt! —Will I be able to do this?

All of the staff made me feel at ease. I have never felt there was a difference made between staff and clients. I have always been treated as an individual and if I needed any support whatsoever, there was always time made for me, which made me feel like I wasn’t a burden; as I am not in competition with anyone at AMH.

Since starting AMH, with reassurance and encouragement, I have completed various courses in personal development such as: Confidence & Self-Esteem, Stress Management, Assertiveness, Exploring Feelings and Emotions, Learning how to Crochet and Art. These courses have been beneficial to me personally.

The most important thing to me was ‘confidentiality’ and knowing that everyone was in the same boat! I was not the only one!

I am also a member of the CLAG (Client Local Advisory Group) which promotes AMH and allows me to speak on behalf of others to improve the service that is provided. We also have a ‘buddy’ system which will help others feel less ‘afraid’!

Again with staff support and advice, I have recently started a voluntary placement at The Hospice Shop which I thoroughly enjoy as it helps me to improve my social skills and confidence even more (can I get more confident?) and hope to continue with this in the future. Without the support of AMH staff I don’t feel that I could have achieved this on my own.

My future is much brighter now through attending AMH and the continued support I receive which is a major help. I have met new friends, socialise and feel that I am contributing to society and have a true sense of personal achievement. I am not afraid to be open and honest about my mental health!


Many thanks to Jennifer for sharing her story.  Jennifer is taking part in 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. To find out more please click here.


Special focus on alcohol awareness and AMH’s many and varied services

Ciara Sharkey is enjoying life once again thanks in part to the support of Action Mental Health

April is alcohol awareness month, and considering many people in Northern Ireland exceed recommended healthy levels, it is a societal issue that continues to challenge government and health policy to stem its rising tide.

Some four in five adult drinkers exceed recommended daily limits in Northern Ireland and the overall misuse of alcohol costs the taxpayer close to £500m per year, being supported by health and social services budgets, the courts and prisons to the police and fire and rescue services.

There are also known links between alcohol misuse and mental ill-health, with the World Health Organisation stating that people who consume high amounts of alcohol are vulnerable to higher levels of mental ill-health.

One local woman Ciara Sharkey tells us how AMH helped her conquer her own journey through alcohol difficulties…

“I cannot believe I am actually writing this story when I think back to the first day I came through the doors of AMH. Basically I had been living in hell for three long hears, constantly fighting these demons in my head and my only relationship I had at the time was with the bottle.

I visited the GP on a regular basis and had my medication changed a lot. I was referred to Woodlea House to be detoxed and receive on to one counselling with the alcohol.

My anxiety was at the point it couldn’t have got any higher on the scale I had no intention of ever broadening my horizons. It was then my counsellor in Woodlea House suggested a visit to Foyle New Horizons; I had never felt so much fear running through my body as I did that day. I wstarted New Horizons in August 2016 and I was based in the craft and woodwork departments. I was very aware of all these new people and petrified of anybody trying to start conversations with me. My key worker Albert reassured me on a daily basis and helped a lot, working on my confidence, self-esteem and reducing my alcohol intake.

I started day by day feeling less anxious as I soon discovered I wasn’t the only one who had alcohol and mental health issues. I completed a vast amount of OCN courses. I then started to feel more comfortable throughout the building and started working in the catering department and thrived on the experience I was receiving. I was asked to cover reception at tea time breaks and that alone boosted my confidence immensely.

Albert then suggested I talk to the employment officer about a placement. Fear, anxiety and panic appeared again – but not for long as Valerie suggested a playgroup for children with special needs. I jumped at the chance and fear turned into happiness and excitement. This was an amazing opportunity for me to have the pleasure of working with children.

I now attend the playgroup once a week and I absolutely love it I intend to increase my days to one morning and one afternoon every week. I finally feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life, at happiness and a real desire to be here again.

Foyle New Horizons was the best decision I’ve ever made and I wouldn’t change it for the world. The staff and keyworkers are so supportive and helpful so I just want to thank them so much for everything.”


Don’t Get Stressed-Out as the Annual Summer Exam Time Approaches

Anna uses coloured highlighters to aid her revision techniques.

It’s nearly that time again – school summer exam time, and as the barometer starts to rise (often under sunny skies), so too do the stress levels of school children and students as they approach the dreaded fixture on the school calendar, often with fear and trepidation.

But it needed be a time of terror and tears – by simply planning ahead, setting priorities and staying calm, and realising that everyone is more than just their exam results.

One Belfast girl facing her A-levels this year, Anna Kelly, agrees that planning is key to keeping her stress levels at a minimum. Here she shares her tips…

Personally, I have to keep my stress levels minimal or else I can’t absorb the information I’m revising, and if I’m stressed going into the exam I can’t focus. I’ve had my revision notes finished 3 weeks ago and now have plenty of time to read over my notes at least three times before my papers and also have time to do past paper questions.

If I wasn’t this prepared my mental health would definitely be deteriorating. However, my friends are having 3-4 breakdowns every week over realising time is too limited to do a yea’rs worth of revision notes and learning in three weeks, while having the added pressure of needing to meet the conditional graded offers from our universities of choice. This is the stress I have successfully alleviated through my GCSEs and A level through working all through the year at revision and not just in study leave.

When it comes to writing notes I listen to any music that will keep my motivated, eg favourite singer, but when it comes to absorbing the information and learning it, I listen to mediation music and find it prevents me from getting distracted and I leave my phone outside the room.

I think exercise is extremely necessary after a few hours of revision as it allows the brain to relax, but then creates opportunity for the brain to be ready to work again, aiding retention of information while studying.

I also search videos on YouTube of each topic in biology and sociology and find the podcasts and animations extremely useful for visually storing the information as I am a visual learner and owe passing my maths GCSE to a website called Maths Watch!

Action Mental Health supports Europe-wide Job Shadow Day

A number of people supported by Action Mental Health to fulfil their employability are helping to mark today’s Europe-wide Job Shadow Day.

Action Mental Health sources and supports employment opportunities for clients, helping them avail of training and voluntary places, and today AMH clients will be joining in the event, shadowing employees across a host of industries.

Job Shadow Day highlights the positive contribution people with health conditions and disabilities can make to workforces and the economy.

The employment initiative was developed by the Irish Association of Supported Employment in 2008 and by 2017 over 800 job seekers participated across 500 employment sites, securing 55 permanent job placements as a direct result.

Since its establishment, Job Shadow Day has been adopted by a number of European countries, including Belgium, Finland, Hungary and Sweden. And last year France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands Portugal, Scotland and Slovenia joined the list of countries marking the day, known in Europe as DUO Day.

Peter’s Successful Journey

Savers’ Manager Stephen congratulates Peter

February 2016 was a turning point in my life!!

Having suffered from depression and battling day to day with the loss of my younger sister to suicide, I could finally take no more.  My relationship had broken down and I was no longer seeing my children and had lost my job and this was the reason I attempted to take my own life.  I was placed in intensive care for 3 days and when I came round, I could see what I was doing to my parents and siblings and realised I needed help and support.

I was referred to Action Mental Health in April 2016 and was very reluctant to attend.  However, that was soon sorted as I found the staff to be very welcoming and supportive.  Joanna (Client Development Co-ordinator) discussed the various courses that I could avail of and I soon found myself back sitting in a group setting.  This took a lot of courage but again without the support from the staff I don’t think I could have achieved this.

Before I knew it I had completed stress management, confidence building and then the employability skills courses.

At the end of our employment programme I was offered the opportunity to avail of an NVQ in Customer Service.  I knew this would help me to take a step towards getting back into work, so I jumped at the chance.  Over the course of some weeks, Stephanie the Employment Officer worked with me to help me find a training placement in a customer service role.  A meeting was set up with Savers in Downpatrick and very soon I found myself in a weekly, structured, customer service role learning the ins and outs of working in a shop.   Within 4 months of starting, a part time position was advertised and the Manager Stephen suggested that I should apply.  So low and behold, I got the job! – thanks to AMH who helped me to complete the application form and prepare me for the interview.

So my journey now…..  I am in part time paid employment in Savers which I enjoy immensely.  I have excellent support from the Savers team as well as AMH.  I can now balance my work and life and spend all my quality time with my family and children.

Without the support of Action Mental Health, I would not be where I am today.


Peter takes part in 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. To find out more please click here.


Foyle musician shares out donation to mental health services across Ireland

Musician Gabby Fitzgerald donates the proceeds of his CD to Action Mental Health’s Mickie Harkin, Service Manager of New Horizons Foyle.

A North West-based musician has donated the proceeds of a CD to mental health services on the both sides of the border in Ireland.

Gabby Fitzgerald, who is originally from Dublin, has kindly shared proceeds worth £1310 from his musical CD collection, Black Dog Island, equally, between Action Mental Health New Horizons Foyle and Mental Health Ireland.

This generous gift marks the first of several fundraising events with Gabby, who is a talented songwriter and traditional musician – playing the Uilleann pipes, guitar and the whistle.

Gabby comments: “In order to try to make the album interesting and strong I started out with 25 songs with the intention of dropping a few along the way, depending on how they were developing. “I decided to call the album ‘’Black Dog Island’’ – this song relating to the low time in my life, and the song also features on the album.”

We at Action Mental Health would like to thank Gabby, not only for the generous donation, but also for his music and that of the other musician who contributed to the album.

We look forward to our next joint venture with Gabby, and more details will be revealed in the coming months.

Sharon Works Out Her Wellbeing and Fitness with AMH and Raises Over £1k!

A client of Action Mental Health’s Workable programme has donated the proceeds of a fundraising drive to the charity, after her path to fitness mirrored her personal journey to mental well-being.

Sharon Scott raised over £700 by completing 5K in the Spar Omagh half marathon, along with her husband Allan.

Sharon wanted to give something back to the charity after experiencing a period of mental ill-health, and it was during her recovery that she undertook a placement with AMH’s Workable Programme. She decided to raise funds as a thank you – and a way to get fit at the same time.

She explained: “I took part in the event because as my mental health improved I felt I need my physical health to get better as well. I had but on a lot of weight during my worst times with my depression and anxiety and felt I was now in a better place to try and get in shape.

“I intend to keep up the running and I have already signed up to compete in another 5K in May. I wanted to raise the money for AMH because they helped me in my recovery, from the SES Workable NI programme and referring me to CMP.”

Since embarking on her fitness and fundraising drive she said she has been overwhelmed by the support she has received.

“I can’t believe how generous everyone has been,” she said.

Spring into Style this weekend with AMH partner Victoria Square and help us bag a grand!

Fashionistas are being invited to select the best spring look for 2018 at a special event at Victoria Square in Belfast next week in aid of Action Mental Health and a number of Northern Ireland’s other charities working in the field of mental health and well-being.

The Spring into Style event takes place at the shopping centre’s Spring Secret Garden this weekend, April 21 and 22 from 1-5pm.

Guests will get the chance to vote for their favourite mixes and matches of fresh fashion and hot trends being showcased by models, each displaying the finery from a different in-centre store. All you have to do is select your must-have look and vote – with the most popular look scooping a £1000 for the chosen charity of one of five local fashion bloggers and influencers.

Action Mental Health’s flag is being flown by Oh So Femme for River Island; Cathy Martin, supporting Cruse Bereavement, for House of Fraser; Katherin Farries, supporting Addiction NI, for Coast; All That’s Pretty for Aware NI, for their chosen store, LK Bennett; and Bella McKee, for Top Shop in support of PIPS.

The event will feature mini makeovers from beauty brands within House of Fraser; there will be samples and one lucky visitor will win a Victoria Square Spring Experience worth £500.