All posts by Amy Black

Marie’s Story – New Horizons Service User


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“My mental health took control of me and my life for 13 years. I didn’t know what it was to feel happy. My world was dark and filled with detained hospital admissions for over 6 years, self- harm, suicide attempts and feelings and symptoms such as paranoia, hearing voices, and so much self -hatred that I believed I was no better than the dirt and dust under your shoe. I had no life, as far as I was concerned the world would be a better place without me.


“Today is different, today is beautiful.  I have a life that makes me happy and that I am proud of, with many blessings. One of those blessings is New Horizons.


“It without a doubt is one of the most incredible places for those with mental health issues who want to piece their life back together and achieve an education whilst doing this.


“New horizons for me has been much more than a qualification. Completing the personal development classes helped me to rebuild my confidence, self- esteem and sense of self –worth. It helped me to believe that I could have a life that is good and helped me to set goals to achieve the life I now knew I was entitled to and deserved.


“New horizons for me was different than grammar school or university as the courses allowed for me  to have blips throughout my recovery, without jeopardising the work I had done to date. I didn’t have to leave and start again the next academic year, I was able to pick up where I left of and continue my work without any judgement or pressure from the tutors.


“The people at New Horizons, both staff and service users, are a big part of what makes it different from the rest. When I am there it feels as though I am surrounding myself with good people, making friends with fellow service users and developing close bonds with the tutors – many of whom become a great support and are with you during your good, your bad, and your ugly.


“It’s a haven, a place that you can go and be with other people who have been through similar things and have a connection with feeling understood and accepted in a world where mental health can still be a taboo subject.


“I am proud to say I have achieved so much since joining New Horizons. I’ve gone from someone with no hopes for the future who wasn’t always able to sit through a two hour class or have a conversation with anybody due to serve anxiety, to becoming a client representative both at a local level and at the regional forums with the aim of improving the service. I now also attend the DEL disability strategy workshops that look at helping people understand the difficulties those with mental ill-health face in accessing services and gaining employment.


“Personally I now have a long term partner and we just got a house together with my very beautiful dog. I am due to start paid employment as a support worker for Leonard Cheshire Disability and I volunteer weekly for the 174 trust disability project working with their young people, which I have been able to use for my placement for my NVQ in health and social care.


“My mental health is the best it’s ever been – it no longer controls me, I control it. I’ve been self- harm free for two years and have been discharged and free from mental health treatment for the first time since I was 13.


“It’s no exaggeration for me to say that I wouldn’t be in the place I am now without New Horizons, the tutors and service users. It has changed me for the better and presented me with some excellent opportunities that I am so very grateful to have been given.


“Honestly if you met me back when I first started with New Horizons and met me now, you wouldn’t think I was the same person. I couldn’t function day to day in the community, I was determined to destroy myself, hurting myself at every opportunity, at times having to be watched by a nurse 24 hours a day because if I was left alone for a second I would self- harm. Kept in a room with nothing but a bed and not allowed outside for fresh air. I was effectively a prisoner and my mental health was my captive.


“Thankfully my life looks very different now. New Horizons gave me a purpose, a reason to fight for life and get up each morning. The structure the service provides has been a great tool to my recovery. Having a selection of education focused, personal development and creative courses has been just what I needed and helped me to build upon every aspect of my life.


“It has been hard work but as I reach each one of my goals it has most definitely been worth it.”


Marie Gilmore
Service User

New Horizons is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014-2020 and the Department for the Economy.



Owen McGaffin

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“For me AMH New Horizons Antrim has been an extremely positive experience. It has had a massive impact on my life and my personal life. Due to the age I was when my mental illness developed, I was basically deprived of my education.

One of the many ways in which AMH New Horizons Antrim has helped me is that I am learning new skills and also obtaining recognised qualifications. The staff at Antrim New Horizons are all fantastic and are very understanding. It is a very pleasant environment to learn in and each client is able to work at their own pace with great support from the Skills Coaches.

Not only have I gained qualifications I have also gained new skills in the healthy cookery programme and both my confidence and self-esteem have increased greatly during my time at New Horizons.      I now find it easier to meet new people and to socialise making me feel more comfortable in group training sessions.

Staff and clients at New Horizons are very supportive of my exercise and weight loss programme and offer many words of encouragement.

To put it simply AMH New Horizons Antrim is a fantastic service with great staff and provides clients with a range of skills and qualifications which assist them in their everyday lives and for a lot of clients to enter or re entre the voluntary or paid workplace.”

Owen is a participant of the Working it Out project which is part-funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014-2020 and the Department for the Economy delivered at AMH New Horizons Antrim.

NI Executive Commits itself to Mental Health

After all our hard work and campaigning over the last number of years we are thrilled to see that the NI Executive has committed itself to improving Mental Health in the Draft Programme for Government Framework.

Not only is this the first time mental health has been listed as an indicator in a draft Programme for Government, but it is also one of the few health indicators to gain a specific mention.

This is a huge accomplishment and we’re excited for what the future will bring to mental health support services!


To see the full framework, click here

Making the big push to resolve Mental Health Service Provision - Chair of the Health Committee Maeve McLaughlin MLA, AMH Chief Executive David Babington and AMH Communications Officer Amy Black.
Making the big push to resolve Mental Health Service Provision – Chair of the Health Committee Maeve McLaughlin MLA, AMH Chief Executive David Babington and AMH Communications Officer Amy Black.

Lagan Construction Group working with AMH to deliver Health & Wellbeing initiatives


As part of Lagan Construction Group’s health and well-being initiatives for employees, the company is workingLagan Construction with Action Mental Health to deliver initiatives surrounding mental health to the entire workforce.

We’re working closely with Lagan Construction Group to deliver personal resilience courses to employees highlighting mental health issues such as stress in the workplace and depression.

To mark Lagan Construction Group’s commitment to their health and well-being initiatives, CEO Colin Loughran met with David Babington, CEO of Action Mental Health, to discuss the partnership.

David Babington said:

“It is a sad truth that as much as one in four people in Northern Ireland will experience a mental illness at some point in their life.”

“Our long-term vision is to break down the walls of stigmatisation and social isolation by encouraging more people to open up and talk about mental ill-health in our local communities.”

“AMH therefore connect with various organisations, such as Lagan Construction Group, to help increase awareness of mental well-being amongst employees and provide them with the right knowledge and support should they ever need it.”

Pictured: David Babington (CEO, Action Mental Health) and Colin Loughran (CEO, Lagan Construction Group)

MLAs Pledge Support For Mental Health Recommendations


Action Mental Health has today published recommendations which call on newly appointed MLAs to commit support for improving Mental Health services at the forthcoming Programme for Government negotiations.

The document outlines the views and recommendations of Northern Ireland’s Mental Health sector (following Northern Ireland’s first ever mental health summit).

To view the document click here

Grosvenor Grammar Raise Vital Funds

L-R Dr F Vasey, Luke Johnston, Zoe Baird, Glenn McCreery, Mr Callum Clarke, Laurie Gregory, Ms Lorraine GrayPupils from Grosvenor Grammar School have raised an impressive £400 for  Action Mental Health (AMH) to help support people in Northern Ireland living with mental ill-health.

The Form 5 students raised the funds by doing weekly collections in the school from September to January as part of Grosvenor’s community out-reach programme. So far, Grosvenor Grammar School pupils have collected in excess of £16,000 this academic year which has been donated to a wide variety of both local and national charities.

Lower sixth pupil and charity committee member, Luke Johnston said:

“In Grosvenor we really try to think about others and not just ourselves: it’s part of our caring ethos.

“We are very lucky to have access to a fantastically modern, vibrant school, but we are also mindful that there are others who aren’t as fortunate as us, so that’s why we try to support them in whatever way possible through our various fundraising efforts.”

Ms Lorraine Gray, Head of Media Studies and Charity Coordinator added:

“As a school, Grosvenor recognises the importance of maintaining positive mental well-being amongst its students just as much as their physical health.  We strive to ensure all pupils are equipped with the right tools and knowledge needed to navigate safely through particularly stressful times, such as exam season when emotions are running high.

“We greatly admire and relate to the work AMH do by supporting the recovery of the 1 in 4 people experiencing mental ill-health in Northern Ireland through education, training and employment – which we too are extremely passionate about.

“It is for this reason that Form 5 pupils decided to raise funds for AMH so they can continue their vital work and act as a voice piece on behalf of those who have experienced or are experiencing mental ill-health.”

Action Mental Health operates in ten locations across Northern Ireland and supports more than 2,000 clients each year by delivering a variety of life-changing courses to the local community.

Programmes are specifically designed to assist individuals with mental ill-health in the recovery process by encouraging them to adopt a healthier lifestyle and widen their social networks. AMH also provide clients with the skills to build a better future, set personal goals, develop coping skills, re-engage with society and become more employable.

Callum Clark, Fundraising and Events Officer of AMH, said:

“We cannot thank the pupils and charity committee of Grosvenor Grammar School enough for donating their time and funds to Action Mental Health. The fact that they have collectively raised so much money in such a short space of time is incredibly impressive and is a shining example of how proactive and caring the school really is towards the wider community.

“I would like to wish all the students of Grosvenor Grammar School all the best of success in the year that lies ahead and am in no doubt that they will achieve great things.”

Lloyds Banking Group raise over £3K for AMH

Lloyds Banking Group has raised over £3,000 for Action Mental Health (AMH), to help educate school children about the importance of positive well-being and looking after their mental health.

The year-long partnership concluded with a grand total of £3,716.65 being donated towards AMH. The funds were raised through various charitable events and initiatives including a country western dance evening, a 55 mile ‘Granite Challenge’ cycle, a number of dress-down Fridays, and prize raffles.

Oonagh Cochrane, Monitoring and Verification Assessor of Lloyds Banking Group, said:

“Lloyds Banking Group strives to promote the mental well-being of its employees by encouraging an inclusive and communicative working environment, where everyone feels supported, valued and appreciated.

“We therefore selected AMH as our charity of the year as they embody our passion for opening up the lines of communication about mental ill-health and fight against the stigmatisation of those who are going through it.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed working in partnership with AMH over the last year and are thrilled to be donating towards such a worthy and important cause.”

Research has shown that one in four adults in Northern Ireland will show signs of mental ill-health, with the prevalence of it being 25% higher here than in England.

The funds raised by Lloyds Banking Group, including a match funding donation of £1,385 will go towards Action Mental Health’s Healthy Me project which promotes social and emotional well-being in children through prevention and self-help.

Fundraising and Events Officer, Callum Clark said:

“We are hugely grateful to Lloyds Banking Group for helping us equip the youngest members of society with the knowledge needed to nurture their mental well-being and invest in their emotional and cognitive development through our Healthy Me programme.

“We cannot thank the members of Lloyds Banking Group enough for donating their time and money to Action Mental Health over the course of the last year and to Oonagh for choosing us as their charity.”


Lloyds Cheque Presentation (L-R) Martin Meighan; Lloyds, Tricia Browne; AMH, Darryl Northrop; Lloyds

Weight Watchers Weigh in the Pounds

A WeightWatchers-cheque presentationhuge thank you to a local Weight Watchers Group in Lisburn which raised an incredible £740 for AMH.

The proceeds – which were collected through individual donations – will go towards supporting the resilience and recovery of the 1 in 4 people in Northern Ireland who are affected by mental ill-health.

Pictured (L-R) receiving the cheque is Carolann Mc Cord (Weight Watchers), Callum Clark (Action Mental Health) and Bernie Walsh (Weight Watchers).