Now that spring is here with longer, brighter days, the Public Health Agency is encouraging everyone to use this opportunity to think positively about their mental health.
In Northern Ireland, one in five people will experience mental health issues, so it is important to be aware of the signs that could indicate a problem, and to do something about them.
Mary Black, Assistant Director of Public Health, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement, PHA, said: “Most of us look forward to spring as a chance to make a new, fresh start. For some however, this can be a challenging time; there may seem to be little room for positive change, perhaps because of losing your job, financial difficulties, loss of a loved one or feelings of stress, isolation or loneliness.
“Spring and summer is an ideal time to get out and about and to start getting a bit more active, with the clocks going forward and the days getting longer. Keeping in touch with friends and family is important. Consider joining or developing new groups and interests, many of which can be free of charge, eg local library book groups, walking groups or taking up volunteering opportunities.
“It is important to look out for behaviour or feelings that could indicate that you, or someone you know, is showing signs of stress or problems under the surface. More information on looking after your mental health and the support available across Northern Ireland can be found at www.mindingyourhead.info”
Taking time out to remember a few simple ways to protect your mental wellbeing could make all the difference. These include:
- Giving and accepting support – being available for others if they need support will encourage them to be there for you too.
- Make time for yourself, family and friends – and talk to them about how you feel.
- Get to know who you are, think about and try to do things that make you really happy; laugh regularly.
- Cultivate and encourage optimism in yourself and others, try to avoid over thinking and comparisons with others – learn to balance and accept what you can and cannot change about yourself.
- Exercise regularly, preferably with someone else.
Some people may experience more troubled feelings at this time of the year, even thinking about suicide. It is very difficult to predict when someone is feeling so unwell but the following signs and risk factors could help identify that someone is thinking of suicide – the more warning signs and risk factors, the higher the possible risk:
- a suicide attempt or act of self-harm;
- expressing suicidal thoughts;
- preoccupation with death;
- becoming isolated;
- alcohol and/or drug abuse;
- sudden changes in mood or behaviour;
- making ‘final’ arrangements, eg giving away possessions.
If you, or someone you know, is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. This is a confidential service, where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow-up with other support if necessary. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also access the Lifeline website at www.lifelinehelpline.info”
Contact the PHA Press Office on 028 9055 3663
Notes to the editor
- Please include the lifeline number in your article (and any subsequent coverage on the subject of promoting mental health and suicide prevention):
Call Lifeline: 0808 808 8000 if you need confidential support services and advice. This is a free helpline service available 24/7. You can also access the website www.lifelinehelpline.info
- Please abide by the Samaritans/Irish Institute of Suicidology media guidelines on suicide: www.samaritans.org/pdf/IrishMediaGuidelines2009.pdf. These are not the same as the PCC guidelines.
- Protect Life: A Shared Vision was launched in 2006: www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/phnisuicidepreventionstrategy_action_plan-3.pdf. This is currently being refreshed by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
- Promoting Mental Health Strategy: http://www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/promoting_mental_health.pdf