Mental Health Awareness Week.
During Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May) the Public Health Agency (PHA) is raising awareness of ways to tackle loneliness and the impact it can have mental and emotional wellbeing. The PHA wish to promote the range of support services available and encourage people to take steps to support themselves and others who may be feeling lonely.
Fiona Teague, Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing lead at the PHA, said: “While loneliness is a feeling we can all relate to, sometimes admitting we feel lonely is much harder.
"Many of us experienced feelings of loneliness and the isolating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some people are still finding it difficult to reconnect again and reach out and speak to people. It’s important we try to reconnect with our friends, family and communities and look out for those who may be experiencing loneliness.
“The PHA supports a wide range of local community and voluntary groups across the region that have projects designed help people reintegrate and connect again.”
Recent PHA-funded projects include a partnership with Derry City and Strabane District Council on the ‘Reconnecting Again’, campaign which was part of the wider Age Friendly initiative. The campaign aimed to reduce social isolation and loneliness in the over 50's age group and highlighted the need for us all to play our part to help friends, family and neighbours re-integrate confidently into our community.
Another local project is the Magherafelt Women’s Group. They linked together through the ‘Take 5 Steps to Wellbeing programme’. Over a five-week period, participants worked on how they could integrate each of the 5 Steps to Wellbeing into their daily lives. The participants made new friendships as well as learn new skills and wellbeing and self-care exercises.
Other examples include The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) green gym and community gardens in Dungannon and the Dolly Mixtures at the Jethro Centre in Lurgan. The initiatives support people to make new friends, bring a sense of purpose, belonging and self-esteem and for many, offers people their main weekly social interaction.
Fiona concluded: “The PHA also supports the work of the Helplines NI network where over 30 helplines are available to help people deal with various health and social wellbeing issues, including loneliness and isolation. There are a number of helplines that can support people experiencing loneliness, for example, Age NI, Parenting NI, Kinship Care, Lifeline and Rural Support, to name a few. All helplines members can be found on www.HelplinesNI.com .”
For a range of community and voluntary groups that offer support in your area, as well as a list of resources, self-help guides and ideas about how to manage better mental health and wellbeing visit www.MindingYourHead.info and www.COVIDWellbeingNI.info
If you or someone you know is in distress or despair and need to speak to a counsellor immediately, the 24/7 crisis counselling helpline Lifeline is available on 0808 808 8000.