Tag Archives: Mental Health

AMH New Horizons client and OCN awards finalist, Joanna, is bursting with passion and creativity!

Joanna is taking part in the Working it Out project at AMH New Horizons Ards & North Down The OCN Level 1 Mixed Media art student, Joanna, was recently shortlisted in two categories at the OCN awards. She was Highly Commended in Health and Wellbeing Learner of the Year and also Highly Commended in Third Sector Learner of the Year.

Joanna started at AMH New Horizons shy, easily overwhelmed, and lacking in self-confidence and self-belief. But now, she can lose herself in creativity. She has had to overcome tough and demanding physical, mental and emotional impacts of anxiety. She is a wonderful example of what can be achieved by facing your fears, riding out uncomfortable sensations/feelings, to commit to something important to you. Joanna’s strength throughout the OCN course has been her determination to overcome her anxiety and build a future where she is achieving her dreams.

Pauline Matthew, Skills Coach at AMH New Horizons, described the joy she has gained from helping Joanna throughout the course:

“Joanna’s journey was magical to watch. Seeing her light up, speak passionately and positively to other students about her work – lit the touchpaper to Joanna’s increased self-belief in her ability to not only create great art but to take pride in it, own it and believe in herself.

She has pushed through, forced herself to sit with the uncomfortable, overcoming fears, anxiety and emotions to contribute to the classes and to create meaningful, personal and beautiful art.”

Joanna is continuing to push herself beyond her comfort boundaries, sharing her thoughts, promoting ideas and proposals for better or more creative ways of working.

The “Working it Out” project 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.

ChatPal – a mental health chatbot that can help tackle loneliness and isolation for people living in rural areas

The theme for Mental Health Awareness 2022 is tackling loneliness and the impact it can have on our mental health and wellbeing. One of the projects that Action Mental Health is involved with is ChatPal, a mental health chatbot. The project is being led by Ulster University and Courtney Potts, a Research Associate at the University explains a bit more about the project and how it aims to tackle loneliness and isolation for people living in rural areas:

The ChatPal project includes the development and trailing of a multilingual mental health app – the ChatPal chatbot. Ulster University and Action Mental Health are involved in the project, along with other European partners in the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Finland, and Sweden. The ChatPal chatbot promotes positive mental wellbeing of individuals and is targeted at those living in sparsely populated areas.

At the beginning of the project, workshops were held with health professionals, mental health service users and university staff/ students. The purpose of these workshops was to find out what people want and need from a mental health chatbot, and what professionals would support. The aim was to work with these groups to co-design and co-produce the chatbot. During the workshops, the topic of loneliness was discussed given this can affect people living in rural areas. One participant said:

“As an older person experiencing social isolation, I want a friendly chatbot to talk to about my interests so I can feel less lonely & I can feel some degree of companionship in my home”

Users can converse with ChatPal to learn about the causes of loneliness, and the chatbot can provide tips to help people manage these feelings.  In ChatPal you can also find relevant mental health information, exercises, simple monitoring and self-care tools, and where to go to access additional mental health support.

The goal for ChatPal is not to replace traditional services, but instead to make them better, more inclusive, streamlined, scalable, and sustainable. The ChatPal chatbot can be used as part of a blended service offering, that can add to in-person sessions as opposed to replacing them. It can also be used as a general health promotion tool, allowing the general population to look after their own mental wellbeing.

Read more about the project: https://chatpal.interreg-npa.eu

Download the ChatPal app

Android devices: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.chatpalmobile  

Apple devices: https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/chatpal-psychology-chatbot/id1559939491  

This funding source for this project is the Interreg VB Northern Periphery & Arctic Programme under the grant for Conversational Interfaces Supporting Mental Health and Wellbeing of People in Sparsely Populated Areas (ChatPal) project number 345.

Covid, stress and returning to the workplace. Let’s make it positive!

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and we are looking at ways of tackling the impact of loneliness on our mental health and wellbeing. Working patterns for many of us have changed, since the start of the pandemic and many people have found this has caused a multitude of issues including loneliness and isolation.

AMH Works has provided some great tips on how to adapt to new ways of working.

Being in work is important for everyone’s general health and wellbeing: it gives us a purpose (and an income), promotes independence, allows us to develop social contacts, and is a factor in preventing both physical and mental health problems (WHO).

Many people found themselves in the position of having to work from home because of coronavirus (COVID-19). This brought with it a lot of stressful and new challenges such as a lack of structure, distractions, blurred boundaries and isolation; affecting mental health and your wellbeing. It was very natural to have feelings of frustration, loneliness, worry, or concern for yourself and those close to you. Now that the world is changing and workplaces are starting to return we might find ourselves worried about change again. The four A’s is a helpful tool for proactive stress management and limiting the pressure you take on. Here is how you could use it to help you stress less and ease into the transition of hybrid working;

The four A’s; Avoid, Alter, Adapt & Accept


It’s important to remember, that it’s not healthy to avoid a stressful situation that needs to be addressed but you may be surprised by the number of pressures and stressors in your life you can reduce and take control of.

It’s ok to say no: Know your own limits, ensure that you are not taking too much on, and it’s important to practice self-care.

Avoid people who cause you stress: It’s ok to avoid the people who cause you unnecessary stress, you might want to take some time apart from that person or even end the relationship.

Control your environment: Taking control of your environment can help alleviate pressure, we live on a notified and anxious planet, ration social media and the news. If the morning commute might cause you to worry, try listening to your favourite music or a podcast to create less stress and promote a greater sense of peace and control.


Sometimes you can’t avoid a stressful situation but you can alter it.

Speak your mind: It’s okay to voice how you are feeling in a respectful manner, practise becoming more assertive to ensure your worries and concerns are heard. Try to tackle the problem early to avoid the situation from escalating.

Finding the middle ground: Be willing to compromise and also change some things about yourself in order to find a happy outcome for all parties.

All work and no play?: The Five Ways to Wellbeing provide five key steps that you can take as your mental ‘five-a-day’ to contribute to your overall wellbeing. Strive to set time aside to practice the ‘five-a-day’ and invest in self-care.


If you can’t change the stressful situation you can learn to adapt. You can challenge unhelpful thinking patterns and gain perspective.

Reframe: viewing a stressful situation in the current situation positively might be tough, but it’s important to take time to pause and reflect. Try to challenge negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts.

Perspective: Take time to reflect on perspective V reality. Ask yourself; will it matter next week? A month? A year?

Self-Standard: are you setting yourself unreasonable goals? Do others expect this from you? Learn ways to be ok with not being perfect and being ‘good enough’. Creating a ‘good enough’ mindset that isn’t filled with unrealistic expectations will help you cultivate a sense of wellbeing.


Some situations maybe are unavoidable and out of our control. In such cases, it is important to remember we have to cope with stress by acceptance. It can be very difficult to do but it can present you with more time to focus your energy on taking care of yourself!

Keep talking: sharing your feelings and expressing your thoughts is more important than ever, talk to a colleague, a trusted friend, a councillor or your GP.

Stay positive: reflect on your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and challenge negative situations by practising the four A’s. Take time to reflect and gain perspective.

AMH Works provide a range of programmes which support employers to improve mental and emotional wellbeing in the workplace and create Healthy, Resilient Workplaces, to find out more contact AMH Works Manager, Shelly Wilson on 07540124083 or [email protected]

There will be times when extra support is needed, if you’re finding things really difficult you might want to speak to your line manager, a GP, Lifeline or Samaritans. Further information on sources of support is available on www.amh.org.uk.

Action Mental Health – tackling loneliness and its impact on mental wellbeing.

Mental Health Awareness Week shines a welcome spotlight on efforts to reduce the impact of loneliness on our mental health and wellbeing. For many of Action Mental Health’s services such as our AMH New Horizons services, tackling loneliness and increasing social connections for our clients is a central element of our work throughout the year.

AMH’s New Horizons services which are located right across Northern Ireland, are much-vaunted support networks to people experiencing periods of mental ill-health.

AMH New Horizons operates recovery services that offer wellbeing, vocational and employability programmes. This complements AMH’s emotional wellbeing and resilience building programmes in schools, workplaces and indeed across the community which aim to build a more resilient and healthier population. Last year AMH services supported almost 25,000 local people, of all ages, right across Northern Ireland.

Clients attending AMH New Horizons take part in a range of courses, from therapeutic classes like arts and crafts, to accredited training and work placements through the “Working it Out” project. Working it Out 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.

The effects of loneliness

There have been many studies on the impact of loneliness and the findings are stark as highlighted below:

  • Loneliness is a killer; in fact it can hasten your death by up to 30% among some risk groups.
  • According to a study of 3.4million people, carried out by Brigham Young University, USA, people who are or feel socially isolated or live alone – whatever their age – are at increased risk of an earlier death. The study’s lead author, Professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad said the harmful effects of loneliness are similar to the harm caused by smoking, obesity or alcohol misuse.
  • The study, Social Isolation, Loneliness and Health Among Older Adults by Caitlin Coyle and Elizabeth Dugan found that loneliness was associated with higher odds of having a mental health problem, while isolation was associated with higher odds of reporting one’s health as being fair or poor.

How AMH is making a difference

Many of our clients regularly tell us that they rely on the social interactions and new friendship networks they build through attending services such as AMH New Horizons and our Mens Sheds to combat their own challenges with loneliness.

We have AMH New Horizons services located across Northern Ireland and you can find out more about the services in your local area by clicking here. On this page you can find contact details for your local service, as well as details on how to access these services for yourself or a loved one.

Our Mens Shed provide a great social setting for men over the age of 50, who we know are one of the groups most at risk of the impacts of loneliness. Our shedders build new skills and friendship networks in a relaxed, comfortable environment, with other people who are facing similar issues. Our Mens Sheds are located in Antrim, Downpatrick and Enniskillen and you can find out more about them by clicking here.

The Working it Out 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.

Mental Health Awareness Week – Top tips to reducing loneliness

Someone who’s lonely probably also finds it hard to reach out. There’s a stigma surrounding loneliness, and people tend not to ask for help because they have too much pride. But it’s important to remember loneliness can – and does – affect anyone, of any age.

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week 2022, we are sharing some ideas of things you can do to help tackle loneliness.

  • Smile, even if it feels hard – Grab every chance to smile at others or begin a conversation – for instance, with the cashier at the shop or the person next to you in the GP waiting room. If you’re shy or not sure what to say, try asking people about themselves.
  • Invite friends for tea – If you’re feeling down and alone, it’s tempting to think nobody wants to visit you. But often friends, family and neighbours will appreciate receiving an invitation to come and spend some time with you.
  • Keep in touch by phone – Having a chat with a friend or relative over the phone can be the next best thing to being with them.
  • Learn to love computers – If your friends and family live far away, a good way to stay in touch is by using a computer or tablet. Libraries and community centres often hold regular training courses to learn basic computer skills – as well as being a good place to meet and spend time with others in their own right.
  • Get involved in local community activities – These will vary according to where you live, but the chances are you’ll have access to a singing or walking group, book clubs, bridge, bingo, quiz nights and faith groups.
  • Fill your diary – It can help you feel less lonely if you plan the week ahead and put things in your diary to look forward to each day, such as a walk in the park or going to a local coffee shop, library, sports centre or cinema.
  • Get out and about – Don’t wait for people to come and see you, travel to visit them.
  • Help others – Use the knowledge and experience you have gained to give something back to your community.

International Men’s Day 2021

Today – Friday 19 November – is International Men’s Day and is a focus on men of all ages, in all their diversity. It’s about our fathers, partners, brothers and friends and this year highlights the importance of making a positive difference to the well-being of men.  It’s also a time to focus on the very real problems men face such as isolation and high rates of male suicide.

Our Men’s Sheds are an active part of their local communities, welcoming men from the age of 50 and upwards to be part of something special. AMH Men’s Sheds are popular venues for support, socialising, learning and leisure. The hubs help its members pool resources and ultimately give back to the local community through a range of services, including the sale of a variety of products they hand-craft during sessions.

Creating clock faces at Men’s Shed Downpatrick

We asked the ‘Shedders’ themselves what makes Men Sheds so effective in keeping them mentally healthy and why they keep coming back. Here’s what they said:

“It’s like a youth club but for old guys”

Tools out at Men’s Shed Downpatrick

“There’s always something to do here that you can get involved in it takes you away from things which is good”

Creating a planter at Men’s Shed Downpatrick

“We can just sit and talk things over it’s very relaxed atmosphere”

Archery at Men’s Shed Downpatrick

“I enjoy the yoga and the ceramics”

“There’s always someone here to help you no matter what’s going on”

A walk with Men’s Shed Downpatrick

“I come here on Mondays for the willow weaving it’s a great way to start the week”

Creating a bench at Men’s Shed Fermanagh

 “It gives me somewhere to come and something to look forward to”

Creating a table at Men’s Shed Fermanagh

You can find more information on Men’s Sheds here: https://www.amh.org.uk/services/mens-shed/

Virtual Pride 2021

As expected, this year’s Pride events across Northern Ireland have moved online. Although June was Pride month globally, here in Northern Ireland Belfast’s Pride falls on 31 July. Belfast Pride is bringing you an online parade show featuring short videos from a wide range of people who would usually be marching on the streets of Belfast on Pride Day. Check out Belfast Pride’s social media pages at 1pm and 5pm on Saturday 31 July to watch this virtual festival of Pride.

If you want to get involved in the flesh there are still some events happening throughout Belfast. For example, The Big Gay Quiz is happening at Elmwood Hall, QUB on 30 July – grab your tickets here. Or if you’re more of a history buff there’s even a walking tour you can go on instead. Join Belfastlad Tours on a walking history of Belfast Pride on Sunday 15 August – grab tickets here.

Action Mental Health has long been a supporter of Pride events throughout Northern Ireland. Last year one of our employees shared why Pride was so important to them:

“Having a minority identity can be isolating, and Covid-19 has shut down the few safe places that many LBGT+ have to socialise/meet and emotionally connect. My heart goes out to LBGT+ people who live more rurally and who live with even greater social and geographical isolation.  How do single people cope or attend to their social/emotional needs during a lockdown? What impact does this have?

“I know this has hit the LBGT+ community hard. I recall living in rural Limavady for many years, having few LBGT+ people in the area with nowhere safe to socialise nor meet others – homophobia and heterosexism were rife.  It was very expensive to travel to the two major cities to get a night out (let alone pay in or buy anything) and I recall having to spend my hard-earned wages renting hotel rooms in Belfast just so I could have a safe night out in LBGT+ company; this wasn’t an optional city break treat but a mental health essential!

I am very aware I was one of the privileged ones that had a good job, a car and was ‘out’ to my friends and family, what about those who aren’t? 

“I am a massive advocate of the essential work and achievement of efforts to eliminate homophobia, discrimination and hate crimes against members of my LBGT+ community. Pride celebrates diversity/equality for all, integrating LBGT+ services within mainstream funding/provision whilst retaining the unique needs of these amazing people, friends, colleagues and peers, that I call my LBGT+ family.

“I look forward to walking the parade route under the AMH banner with pride in the coming years.”

AMH Celebrates in Portadown

AMH Celebrates Client Success in Craigavon and Banbridge


DSC_0114Today, family friends and supporters of Action Mental Health gathered in Portadown

Today, family friends and supporters of local charity Action Mental Health (AMH) gathered in Portadown Town Hall to celebrate the many achievements of clients in the last year.

Mayor of Craigavon, Mr Colin McCusker and Joanne McConville, Primary Healthcare Manager at the Southern Health and Social Care Trust were in attendance to listen to clients’ “Roots to Recovery” personal stories.

The special guests stayed to present certificates to clients for a range of OCNs and NVQs in personal wellbeing, employment, computer skills, domestic cooking skills and horticulture.

Throughout the year, clients of AMH’s New Horizon’s service also benefitted from a range of non-accredited personal and wellbeing activities from oil painting and jewellery making to sports like Boccia and Football.

The Mayor congratulated staff and clients on their success.


The staff from AMH New Horizons Craigavon & Banbridge
The staff from AMH New Horizons Craigavon & Banbridge