All posts by Amy Black

Airport Charity Partnership Deemed A Flying Success

A two year partnership betBIA  AMH Charity Handoverween Belfast International Airport and Action Mental Health has concluded with over £16,000 raised to help increase awareness of mental ill-health in Northern Ireland.


Funds collected during the charity partnership, the first of its kind for Belfast International, will go towards helping people recover from mental illness in Northern Ireland and raise awareness of the symptoms.


Praising Belfast International Airport on its achievement, Chief Executive of AMH, David Babington said:


“We are extremely proud to have been selected as the very first charity partner of Belfast International Airport and are delighted with its unprecedented success.


“The money raised will further our efforts in reducing stigmatisation within the local community and transform the lives of those living with mental ill-health, as well as promoting resilience and well-being to future generations.”


During the two year partnership, Belfast International Airport employees collectively organised a series of fun-filled fundraisers for both customers and staff, including a VIP discounted Christmas shopping event, coffee mornings, and pilates taster sessions. In addition, Belfast International Airport kicked of the partnership with a substantial donation of £10,000.


David Babington continued:


“It’s hugely encouraging to know that such a prominent organisation such as Belfast International Airport has led the way in terms of raising awareness of mental ill-health both inside and outside of the workplace.

“It has been thoroughly enjoyable working with the entire team and we cannot thank them enough for their support.”


Action Mental Health operates in nine 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.


Managing Director of Belfast International Airport, Graham Keddie said:


“Belfast International Airport is extremely passionate about giving back to the local community, which is why we have a number of charitable initiatives in place to help fund a catalogue of worthy causes such as Action Mental Health.


“The topic of mental health is something which has touched most people’s lives in Northern Ireland, whether it’s through a friend or loved one. So with that said, we endeavoured to raise as much funds as possible for AMH so they can carry out their fantastic work and support those in need.”





Following Action Mental Health’s research report (on mental health service provision in NI), entitled ‘Regress? React? Resolve?’ AMH is hosting Northern Ireland’s first ever Mental Health Summit.


Taking place at the Stormont Hotel on 24th February, the event will bring together all of Northern Ireland’s Mental Health stakeholders including the DHSSPSNI, the Health Trusts, the Board, Voluntary Community Sector and service users.


In a bid to protect the future of mental health services in Northern Ireland, AMH will use the summit to encourage the NI Executive to take essential and urgent action.


Reflecting on the funding increases of £1 billion in England and £54 million in Scotland for mental health provisions, Chief Executive of AMH, David Babington said:


“The news that David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon have taken the initiative to open up more resources for mental health services in England and Scotland stands in stark contrast to Northern Ireland.


“This further highlights the urgency for similar leadership and commitment from the NI Executive to address the sustained deficiencies in our services, which is putting the health of clients at risk.”


Research has shown that despite mental illness being 25% more common in Northern Ireland than in England, with a higher rate of suicide than anywhere else in the UK, there has been a shocking underspend of 26% in mental health support in the last six years.


Mr Babington continued:


“Our recent research entitled ‘Regress, React, Resolve’, shows the need to improve funding, address problems with fragmentation in service provision, provide greater focus on education, tackle stigma, and provide leadership for mental health in Northern Ireland.


“Mental health services here are at a major crossroads and there is a real danger that any gains made in recent years may be reversed by lack of commitment and resources.


“That’s why we are hosting Northern Ireland’s first ever Mental Health Summit to bring together MLAs, commissioners, charity CEOs, and service users, to collectively discuss how we can improve the Departmental Health Strategy going forward.


“The summit also presents the opportunity for service users to have a say in how the challenges facing mental health facilities have impacted their wellbeing and recovery, which can often have devastating results.”


In addition to Mr Babington’s comments, an Action Mental Health service user said:


“Being diagnosed with a mental illness is overwhelming and disorientating in any case, but when you don’t receive the right support and advice you feel even more closed off from society. It’s like being stuck in a black pit without someone reaching down to help you out.


“Due to the continued stigma attached to mental illness, too many people choose to turn a blind eye to someone who is living through it, which can often exacerbate a person’s condition.


“The hard reality is, mental ill-health doesn’t just affect your emotional state, but your personal life, career, and social interactions too. Mental illness can and will strip a person of their identity unless the right support networks are in place to help them through their problems and redefine who they are as a person.


“Services like AMH are vital in the recovery process for many users like myself, as they help to break down the walls of social stigmatisation through training, education and employment.


“When it comes to healthcare, actions speak louder than words, so it’s time the NI Executive followed their UK counterparts by investing in the future of mental health provision in Northern Ireland so that standards of care can improve.”


Special guests at the Mental Health Summit will include Natasha Devon MBE (Mental Health Champion for schools in England), leading political figures, and a range of key players from across the health sector in Northern Ireland.


Following the launch of the Regress, React, Resolve report, AMH will discuss several recommendations at the summit for local government to action, including:

  • Government funding needs to be made available to improve mental health services in Northern Ireland and protected against budget cuts in the future.
  • The DHSSPS and HSC need to establish a regional working group to examine the extent and impact of provision fragmentation and encourage greater integration between different services.
  • An independent Mental Health Champion for NI needs to be established in order to defend the rights and interests of people living with mental illness and renew the Bamford vision.

National Sickie Day

The first Monday in February (which this year was the 1st) has been coined National Sickie Day in the UK.

Statistically this is when most people will phone in sick to work using a range of different excuses to take the day off. Having a cold or flu are the most popular excuses given for taken the day off, but it is telling that these are ‘excuses’, which suggests that maybe they are not as true as employees would have their bosses believe.

This is somewhat backed up by a poll taken by ITV in 2014 on this subject. Whilst colds, flu, and food poisoning were the most popular excuses given, 46% of those interviewed stated that ‘feeling tired’ was the real reason and 40% also said ‘they just didn’t feel like it’.

This is an all too familiar trend we are seeing where the issues around how a person is feeling are masked with a physical issue. Culturally colds, flu and other physical ailments are still much more readily accepted than stating your mental health is suffering and you need to take a break.

Furthermore, employers feel that any mention of a mental health problem means a member of staff will be absent long term. Whilst taking a longer period of sickness is true for some cases such as stress, anxiety or depression, others who are finding it difficult to cope  with mounting pressure may simply need a day off to martial their feelings. In these instances, it is worth employers having a long hard think about allowing time off.

If one day of sick leave saves one month of absence further down the line, is it not worth doing? By doing so it will save much more money for companies and give employers potentially happier and stress free staff, which is what they should aim for.

By working with a range of employers in all sectors across Northern Ireland, I have come across some who use ‘duvet days’. These are a great little idea which allow employees to call in that morning and say they are taking a duvet day and that is that. No need to feel guilty for ‘not being up for it’ and no need to make excuses. This is great for employees and means that when they come back the next day they are more likely to be refreshed and ready to go.

What kind of things can employers do to make the first Monday in February National Sickie Day? Firstly becoming more aware of what could be impacting on staff’s physical and mental health. Why don’t they feel like it today?

In January we had ‘Blue Monday’ and in February we have National Sickie Day. This is not a new phenomenon, we have been aware of these days for a number of years and yet the desire to combat the issues leading to them does not seem to be there.

Companies and society as a whole need to do more in terms of talking about what is causing this suffering for a large number of people every single day. We need to ask staff, are they happy? If not, what can we do make them happier?

Organisations can no longer operate with a policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, they need to show employees that their health and well-being is of paramount importance to the organisation’s productivity ratings and staff engagement.


For help in improving the mental health and well-being of your workforce contact AMH Works on for more information on the programmes we run that can help your organisation save around 30% of costs relating to mental health related sickness absence and sickness presence.

Client Presentation Day in New Horizons Foyle

Congratulations to all our clients from the New Horizons service in Foyle, who each received their well deserved certificates of achievement on Thursday 28th January. Several clients received special recognition for their contribution in speaking publicly about their journey through illness to recovery.

The event was officiated by Lord Mayor  Elisha McCallion, also in attendance where : WHSCT Assistant Director Amanda McFadden, WRAPP Manager Nuala Campbell, Andy Hall – BIG Lottery Impact of Alcohol Programme Manager. Special guest included some old friends from years gone by, clients, health professionals, employers and community partners, also in the audience showing her support was Foyles’ most famous business women and mindfulness coach  Brenda Shankey.

Well done everyone and we hope you all enjoyed the day as much as we did!


AMH Launch 12 Christmas Wishes

12 Christmas WishesThis Christmas, we have joined forces with local public figures and health authorities to launch a digital campaign that urges aspiring party leaders to address the mounting challenges facing mental health facilities in Northern Ireland.

The social media campaign, entitled ’12 Christmas Wishes’, involves a series of video messages from local personalities, MLAs, academics, health professionals and service users, who each make a wish for better support and acceptance of people living with a mental health condition.

Following our “Regress, React, Resolve” research, which documented an underspend of 26% in mental health services between 2008 and 2014, the campaign highlights the imbalance within current funding structures which is jeopardising the wellbeing and social integration of mental health patients.

Chief Executive of AMH, David Babington said:

“Looking towards the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections in May 2016, we are asking on behalf of our clients, their families, our staff, and the voluntary sector, that the new Assembly and Executive commit to resolving the challenges facing mental health services in Northern Ireland.

“Each day from the 11th until 22nd December, we will be sending out a Christmas Wish via social media based on the key recommendations created by our Research report.

“It’s hugely important for people to understand that those living with a mental condition are not simply problems to be managed, but are individuals in their own right and are often in desperate need of help.

“Whilst we recognise there are huge financial pressures on the local government, it is no excuse to treat mental health provision as the Cinderella service of the NHS, with patients paying the ultimate price in regards to the decline of their health due to lack of fundamental resources.

“Our ‘12 Christmas Wishes’ therefore seeks to redress the balance between physical and mental health support, which we hope will motivate the government to not only stand up and listen, but take action by resolving current struggles.”

Previous studies have shown that Northern Ireland has some of the poorest mental health ratings in the UK and Ireland, with an estimated one in five people here suffering from a mental health illness in their lifetime (Public Health Agency, 2014).

In addition, participants in our most recent study expressed feelings of increased social isolation, stigmatisation, and frustration with the current system, due to lack of understanding and investment in resources, education and professional training.

Prominent businesswoman and mental health advocate, Brenda Shankey is one of the key speakers involved in this year’s 12 Christmas Wishes. When asked why she wanted to take part, she said:

“I support Action Mental Health’s Christmas Wishes Campaign because it’s a charity that lies close to my heart.

“I deeply admire what AMH is trying to achieve in regards to building a better future for those under the care of mental health services by drawing the public’s attention to such an important issue.

“Despite how common it is, mental health is sadly overlooked so often due to the social stigma attached to it, which I find completely incomprehensible. Although we have come a long way in terms of educating people on what mental illness is, a lot more needs to be done to increase awareness and support for clients and indeed society in general.

“If you have a broken leg you get it fixed, but because we can’t see a mental illness it’s more difficult to recognise – yet I feel it’s a growing problem and more help is needed for diagnosis and treatment solutions.

“So with that said, my Christmas wish is to encourage more government funding for solutions to an ever increasing problem.”

Taking place from 11th – 22nd December, you can follow our 12 Christmas Wishes campaign by following @AMHNI and using the hashtag #12ChristmasWishes.

Alternatively you can access the videos via or

AMH Win Coveted CIPR Award

On Friday 23rd October, The AMH Comms Team and Turley PR and Public Affairs won Best Integrated Campaign for our ‪#‎12cutsofchristmas campaign at the CIPR PRide Awards in the Culloden Hotel.

The calibre of candidates was extremely high, so it is a huge achievement for a small in-house team in the voluntary sector like ours, to win against the big agencies in such a competitive market. Well done team!

Pictured Tricia Browne Communications Manager and Callum Clark Events Officer.

CIPR award

National Stress Awareness Day – 4th November


The workplace  directly influences the physical, mental, economic and social well-being of workers and in turn the health of their families, communities and society. It offers an ideal setting and infrastructure to support the promotion of health of a large audience. In saying this, the health of workers is also affected by non-work related factors within society and the impact is brought into the working environment.


In the past, back pain was cited as the number one cause of absenteeism, now it is stress. There are two specific definitions of stress that are adhered to: ‘The adverse reaction a person has to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed upon them’  (HSE) and ‘That which arises when the pressure placed upon an individual exceeds the capacity of that individual to cope’ (CBI).


The stigma around mental ill health – which stress is recognised as such, has left individuals feeling reluctant to raise their hand and ask for help. Much more empathy and understanding is therefore required both in and out of the workplace to grasp the fact that what may trigger one person’s perception of a threat, is not necessarily the same for all.


The HSE Management Standards represent a set of conditions that, if present, reflect a high level of wellbeing and organisational performance, covering six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health and well-being, lower productivity and increased sickness absence:


  • Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment.
  • Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work.
  • Support– this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues.
  • Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.
  • Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles.
  • Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.


From a legal perspective, employers have a ‘duty of care’ cited in The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (NI Order 1978)  however, a counselling service does not  totally cover this alone.  Instead a proactive rather than reactive approach by the employer should be taken, by promoting education and awareness of stress and other mental ill-health issues in the health and safety workplace policy  (Intel v Daw, 2007 and O2 v Dickins, 2008).


The WHO Healthy Workplace Model cites that investing in health and wellbeing programmes show:

  • a productivity increase
  • a Return On Investment (ROI)
  • a reduction of health care costs
  • a phenomenon of attraction and retention of the best employees.




Office of National Statistics  2012:


  • 131 million days were lost due to sickness absences in the UK in 2011.
  • In 2011, around 131 million days were lost through absences due to sickness or injury, (these figures include employees and self-employed, aged 16+, across the whole of the UK).
  • Stress has forced one in five workers (19%) to call in sick, yet the vast majority of these (93%) say they have lied to their boss about the real reason for not turning up.
  • The industries that reported the highest rates of work-related stress in the last three years were health, social work, education and public administration.
  • The occupations that reported the highest rates of work-related stress in the last three years were health and social service managers, teachers and social welfare associate professionals
  • Cost of Absence in the Public Sector is £800 per employee per year. Average number of absence days – 9.1
  • Cost of Absence in the Private Sector is £476 per employee per year. Average number of absence days – 6.4
  • Estimated annual cost to UK business : £13 billion




Action Mental Health (AMH) provide a plethora of services for individuals living with mental ill health as well as expert-led awareness sessions for Schools, Communities and the Business sector.

Cyclists Raise Over £4,500 for AMH

On Sunday 4th October, a record number of like-minded cycling enthusiasts from across Northern Ireland got on their bikes to raise funds for AMH by taking part in our annual 55 mile Granite Challenge.

Marking the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, hundreds of participants bravely embarked on the long distance cycle which started at our New Horizons Service in Downpatrick, before travelling through the scenic surroundings of the Mourne Mountains and returning back home to basecamp.

We would like to thank everyone involved in making this year’s Granite Challenge our most successful yet, with an incredible £4,579.30 being raised to further help our mission to provide life-changing services to those living with mental ill-health throughout Northern Ireland.