The Family Wellness Project is an early intervention mental health project for children under 12 and their families. It has been awarded five years funding from the Big Lottery
Fund under the Reaching Out Supporting Families programme.
You will find lots of helpful resources in this section of the website relating to mental health.
Family Wellness Blog
Mental Health at Christmas
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” We hear this constantly at Christmas time, whether it’s in advertising on telly and radio or in public, we are told that Christmas is a time to be happy.
The reality is that Christmas comes with a lot of pressures which can make it a very stressful time of year whether you struggle with your mental health or not. There’s an expectation to socialise with friends and family, increased temptation to overindulge in food and alcohol and of course the financial strain that gifting and celebrations can put on your bank balance.
Although it can be a period of great joy, Christmas time can also be stressful and so it’s important to look after your mental health and wellbeing. Here are some tips for looking after yourself during the festive period.
Try to avoid comparing yourself to others
Sometimes we can be motivated to do things differently by those we admire but comparing ourselves with others can also have a big impact on how we feel. Putting ourselves under pressure to keep up with what others are doing at Christmas and feeling like you won’t be able to meet those expectations can have a negative impact on our self-esteem. Social media and advertising over the holiday period can also add to this pressure.
Do your best to focus on what makes Christmas special for you and your family. Spend time not money. Create memories by planning low cost day trips. Research shows that spending time with those you care about can have a positive impact on your emotional health. For extra wellbeing points pack healthy snacks and try to incorporate some physical activity.
Set realistic expectations
Children’s expectations are usually high at Christmas time, with all the toy adverts and talk with their friends about what they’ve asked Santa for. It can be difficult, but try not to get drawn into what others are spending and do what is right for your family.
Children are usually very happy with the gifts they receive regardless of how much they get due to the excitement on the day. It is often adults who feel the need to indulge children with more gifts. It is okay to say no, shop savvy by making a list, set a budget and try and stick to it, as well as shopping around for bargains. Talk to your children about the value of things and explain that it’s not all about what Santa brings. Christmas is a time to make memories together. The memory of these good times will last much longer than the gifts ever will.
There is also an emphasis put on Christmas being a ‘time for family’. For those who maybe live far away from family or have a difficult relationship with some family members, this can cause additional pressure and put a strain on families. Being realistic about what to expect from time together will help avoid disappointment.
Get involved in your community
For some, Christmas can be a period of increased isolation. It can be particularly painful for those who have suffered bereavements. Many organisations will offer support and activities to get involved with over Christmas. Find out what is available in your local area, for example, in libraries and community centres. Volunteering can be a good way of reducing loneliness and boost a sense of purpose.
Take time to relax
Allow yourself to take some time out if you find your stress levels rising. This could be going out for a walk, listening to music, taking a break to have a cup of tea – whatever will help you to relax or unwind. It can be difficult to take a break when you have other domestic responsibilities or to say “no” if you feel you should join in with festive parties, but you know yourself best and if you feel you need some time out you should take it. It’s important to set limits for your wellbeing, if you are honest and explain to friends and family they should understand, for example, “That sounds like a lot of fun, but I’m quite tired/not feeling 100% and would prefer to get an early night.”
In advance of the festivities plan your ‘me time’ to minimise your levels of stress or anxiety. Visit your local library and pick up novels or books on topics that interest you. Create a wellness calendar where you select an activity you enjoy and practise it for 20 minutes/day over the festive season. Great low cost options include; mindfulness, walking outdoors, at home facials, bubble baths or journaling. The wellbeing boosting habits that you find most beneficial could become New Year’s Resolutions.
Everything in moderation
It can be easy to over indulge at Christmas with all the treats that are around. Of course it is nice to have some treats at this time of year but a healthy diet is still very important to maintaining a stable mood.
Alcohol may initially make you feel more relaxed but it’s important to remember that alcohol is a depressive and therefore it is highly recommended to stay within the limits. Be hangover free with non-alcohol alternatives to your favourite beverages. Not only will you enjoy the party, but you can also enjoy a headache free next day.
It can be really hard to be motivated to exercise in the winter months when it’s cold and gets darker quicker, but even a little bit of gentle exercise can boost your mood. Wrap up warm and go for a nice walk or you don’t even need to leave the house, get some Christmas tunes on and have a dance or have them on to bop along to whilst doing your housework.
Sleeping patterns can get a little disrupted over the Christmas period, we often stay up later and may not get a chance to catch up on sleep we miss in the bustle of preparations for the holiday. Research suggests that not having enough sleep has a negative impact on our mental health, so if possible, try and head to bed at your usual time every night. Improve your sleep hygiene by limiting screen use before bed, reducing caffeine and creating a calm ambience in your bedroom. Alcohol can also impact on the quality of sleep we get, which is another reason to be conscious of how much we are drinking during all the celebrations.
Thursday 10th October 2019: World Mental Health Day
World Mental Health Day is celebrated on the 10th October every year with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilising efforts in support of mental health. It’s a great day to show your support for better mental health and looking after your own wellbeing.
The theme which the World Federation for Mental Health has chosen for this year is Suicide Prevention.
Northern Ireland has the highest suicide rate in the UK, with five people dying each week.
- Three times as many people die by suicide in Northern Ireland each year than are killed in road traffic collisions
- A total of 219,000 people have been directly affected by suicide since 2005
- More than 70% of people who die by suicide are not known to mental health services
- 10% of 15/16 year olds have self-harmed at some stage
Last month a plan was unveiled to reduce Northern Ireland’s suicide rate by 10% in the next five years. The commitment is the long-awaited Protect Life 2 suicide prevention strategy published by the Department of Health.
The Mental Health Foundation is using the day as an opportunity to spread a message of hope for those who may be struggling and those supporting loved ones through difficult times. They have issued advice for helping a person who may be suicidal through the acronym ‘WAIT’.
Prevention is something we can all help with by having conversations about mental health early and exploring coping strategies. The Family Wellness Project have a range of resources for exploring mental health with your child and also to help with parents’ mental health.
Last month to mark World Suicide Prevention Day, the Family Wellness Project published some tips for talking to children about when someone dies suddenly. You can read the blog post below or scroll the images below for the tips.
Tuesday 10th September 2019: Supporting children who have experienced a bereavement
When someone dies suddenly it is devastating for families and it can be very difficult for parents to know how to navigate the discussion with their children. In fact, children can often be excluded from having a full and active role in the grieving process because we believe that the less a child knows the less it will hurt them. A suddenly bereaved child always needs love, support and care to enable them to grieve and have the best chance of a full, happy life.
Just like adults, children will grieve in different ways at different times. They may cry, get angry, become withdrawn, be loud, talk or not talk about the person who died, or play and behave as if nothing has happened. All of these reactions and more are completely normal. As parents, we will want to help support children through their grief, answering questions and helping them feel safe and loved.
Talking to children about grief and death
- How old they are: Your child’s age will greatly influence how you communicate with them about death. As children learn and mature their capacity to understand changes and evolves.
- How close they were to the person: If the person who died was not a close family member or friend you may find a single conversation is all that is necessary. However, if the person was a close family member or friend you might want to approach your first conversation as the beginning of an ongoing dialogue.
- How curious they are: If your child has questions, it could be a sign that they don’t understand or are seeking reassurance. Grief is an ongoing process and your child may continue to try to deal with the news long after your conversation has ended. Allow the child to ask questions and let them know that it’s okay for them to come to you with questions if they have them.
Tips for talking to children about grief and death
1. Assess your child’s understanding
Your conversation with your child should be age appropriate as your child may not have any understanding of what happens when somebody dies. It can be helpful to begin your conversation by asking what their thoughts are by asking questions like “do you know why mummy/daddy is sad today?” or “do you know what it means when someone dies?”
2. Be honest and straightforward
As parents we want to protect our children from hurt and pain. There is a range of research which shows that it is much better to tell children things than to keep them in the dark.
What you say will depend on your situation, but generally speaking try to match the child’s developmental level. Don’t feel as though you have to tell them everything all at once and don’t give them more information than they can handle. With very young children stick to the basics – “this person has died and it’s very sad”. Between the ages of 7-12 you may find the child understands more about death and you could explain a little bit more. Give short, true answers and then see if the child follows up with any questions. Let the child lead the conversation with those questions, that way we don’t provide too much information which might be overwhelming.
3. Try not to use euphemisms
We can commonly use euphemisms to replace words or phrases that we think will be uncomfortable for others, but for children they can sometime confuse their understanding. Younger children will tend to think very literally. For example, “They’ve gone to a better place” may mean the child think the person has went somewhere great and could come back. (This might also be dependent on families’ religious beliefs)
4. Validate their emotions
Remember that a wide range of emotions is normal with grief, so don’t be surprised if the child seems to show little emotion or if they show an emotion like anger, worry, or fear. Acknowledge their emotions and let them know it is natural to experience lots of different emotions and this will encourage them to express themselves.
5. It’s okay to share your own emotions
Opening up to your child about your own grief will provide your child with reassurances that they are not alone and that it is acceptable to feel all kinds of emotions. Initial conversations will be difficult but try to remain calm and in control, you may wish to have a partner or a friend with you for moral support and to help guide the conversation.
The things children say can sometimes be a little unpredictable, they might surprise you about how observant they are with their comments or at times what they say might seem quite silly. If a child says something that surprises you in the context of a conversation about death, try not to make them feel embarrassed, wrong, or ashamed. Do your best to respond to their responses in a calm, non-judgemental way.
Death of a loved one is incredibly upsetting. Intense emotions and change is also scary. As your child attempts to cope with what has happened they will benefit from a lot of reassurance. Depending on the types of issues your child presents to you, reassure them that they are safe and your family is safe, that illnesses they experiences will not lead to death and that they will be taken care of. Death can also sometimes cause us to feel guilty, like there is something we could have done to help. If your child seems worried about this,
reassure them that the death was not their fault and they couldn’t have done anything to prevent it.
8. Prepare them for rituals such as funerals and memorial services (depending on child’s age)
Talk to your child about funerals and memorials before they attend them. You know your child best and will know whether it is appropriate for them to attend depending on their age and what they can cope with.
Include them in the planning to an extent, if possible. Ask them if there are things they would like to incorporate into the event or if there are special ways that they would like to honour their loved one.
Talk to them about what to expect before, during, and after the services, burial, etc. This may include discussions about things like the person’s body, burial, cremation, what types of emotions they may witness, what types of emotions they expect to feel, etc.
Discuss their concerns and worries. Is there anything about it that worries them? Chat to them about ways for them to cope in the moment. For example, a small child might like to bring a favourite stuffed animal to hold or might want to choose a trusted adult to be their buddy for the day. Older kids might want help identifying a room or place where they can go to take a break if necessary.
9. Talking to others
You might want to discuss with your child how they can respond when other people express sympathies or ask questions. Reassure them that they don’t have to share anything they don’t want to and keep things private if they like.
Help your child identify other support and people they feel comfortable talking with. If you need support you can contact the Parenting NI Support Line for free on 0808 8010 722.
Partners within the Family Wellness Project can help support you with the impact that grief and loss can have on your mental health:
Other useful links:
Mental Health Week: Body Image
Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 13-19 May 2019. The theme this year is Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.
‘Body image’ is a term that can be used to describe how we think and feel about our bodies. Our thoughts and feelings about our bodies can impact us throughout our lives, affecting, more generally, the way we feel about ourselves and our mental health and wellbeing.
Having body image concerns is a relatively common experience and is not a mental health problem in and of itself; however, it can be a risk factor for mental health problems. Research has found that higher body dissatisfaction is associated with a poorer quality of life, psychological distress and the risk of unhealthy eating behaviours and eating disorders.
Among teenagers, 37% felt upset, and 31% felt ashamed in relation to their body image.
What causes body image concerns?
The way in which our experiences and environment affect our body image will be different for everyone. However, overall, the research suggests that body image can be influenced by:
- our relationships with our family and friends
- how our family and peers feel and speak about bodies and appearance
- exposure to images of idealised or unrealistic bodies through media or social media
- pressure to look a certain way or to match an ‘ideal’ body type
40% of teenagers said images on social media caused them to worry about their body image.
What can we do?
Action is needed to build and promote positive body image and support good mental health and wellbeing in relation to our bodies. Everyone has a right to feel comfortable and confident in their own bodies. Mental Health Foundation’s report highlights key recommendations for:
- Effective regulation of how body image is portrayed.
- The need for commitment from social media companies to play a key role in promoting body kindness.
- Taking a public health approach to body image by training frontline health and education staff.
- Individually being more aware of how we can take care of ourselves and others in relation to body image.
Children’s Mental Health Week: New Research on Children’s Sleep
New research released by Place2Be for Children’s Mental Health Week 2019 (4-10 February) suggests that children with less sleep are more likely to struggle with worries.
Children and young people who usually get less than the recommended 9 hours sleep on a school night are more likely to feel that worries get in the way of school work (32% vs 22%), according to a survey of over 1,100 10-11 year-olds and 13-15 year-olds carried out by Place2Be.
More than half (56%) of children and young people say they worry “all the time” about at least one thing to do with their school life, home life or themselves – and those getting less sleep are less able to cope with worries, saying they often don’t know what to do when they’re worried (22% vs 18%), and once they start worrying, they cannot stop (36% vs 28%).
Tips for Better Sleep for Children
1. Get into a regular bedtime routine
A regular bedtime routine starting around the same time each evening encourages a good sleep pattern. A routine of bath, story and bed can help younger children feel ready for sleep. For older children, the routine might include a quiet chat with you about the day then some time alone relaxing before lights out.
Encourage your child to relax before bed. Older children might like to wind down by reading a book, listening to gentle music or practising breathing techniques for relaxation. If your child takes longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep, they might need a longer wind-down time before turning the lights out to go to sleep.
3. Regular sleep and wake times
Keep your child’s bedtimes and wake-up times within 1-2 hours of each other each day. This helps to keep your child’s body clock in a regular pattern. It’s a good idea for weekends and holidays, as well as school days.
4. Avoid daytime naps
Most children stop napping at 3-5 years of age. Daytime naps might make it harder for children over five years to fall asleep at the beginning of the night. If older children are getting enough sleep overnight, they shouldn’t need a daytime nap.
5. Make sure your child feels safe at night
If your child feels scared about going to bed or being in the dark try avoiding scary TV shows, movies and computer games. Some children with bedtime fears feel better when they have a night light.
6. Check noise and light in your child’s bedroom
A quiet, dimly lit space is important for good sleep. Check whether your child’s bedroom is too light or noisy for sleep. Blue light from televisions, computer screens, phones and tablets might suppress the hormone levels that tell our body it’s time to sleep. It probably helps to turn these off at least one hour before bedtime and to keep screens out of your child’s room at night.
7. Avoid the clock
If your child is checking the time often, encourage them to move his clock or watch to a spot where they can’t see it.
8. Eat the right amount at the right time
Make sure your child has a satisfying evening meal at a reasonable time. Feeling hungry or too full before bed can make your child more alert or uncomfortable. This can make it harder for her to get to sleep. In the morning, a healthy breakfast helps to kick-start your child’s body clock at the right time.
9. Get plenty of natural light in the day
Encourage your child to get as much natural light as possible during the day, especially in the morning. Bright light suppresses the sleep hormone. This helps your child feel awake and alert during the day and sleepy towards bedtime.
10. Avoid caffeine
Caffeine is in energy drinks, coffee, tea, chocolate and cola. Encourage your child to avoid these things in the late afternoon and evening, and don’t offer them to him at this time.
4th February 2019: Children’s Mental Health Week
This Children’s Mental Health Week Place2Be are asking everyone to take steps to be Healthy: Inside and Out.
When we think about healthy living, we tend to focus on looking after our bodies and physical wellbeing – through food, being active and getting enough sleep.
However, in order to be healthy overall, it’s important that we look after our minds and mental wellbeing too.
Our bodies and minds are actually very closely linked, so things that we do to improve our physical wellbeing can help our mental wellbeing as well. When we take steps to be Healthy: Inside and Out, it helps us to feel better in ourselves, focus on what we want to do and deal with difficult times.
1 in 8 children have a diagnosable mental health condition and many more will struggle with challenges like bullying or bereavement. We are proud to support the week and will be sharing information and activities on the website throughout the week.
You can also find lots of resources on Place2Be’s website which you can share with your children or use in school.
10th October 2018: World Mental Health Awareness Day
This World Mental Health Day the focus is on Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.
Young people today face constant challenges, issues such as, bullying, suicide, the onset of major mental illnesses, the effects of trauma, and gender identity discrimination. Sadly, it is unsurprising that mental ill health often starts in childhood.
Young people’s emotional health is just as important as their physical health, yet it can often be difficult for young people to know where to go for information on mental health or to get support and help when they need it.
Mental Health First Aid England have some great resources to help us understand young people’s mental health and tips on how to talk about it.
This Mental Health Day Family Wellness Project want parents and young people to know that help is available. The Family Wellness Project have a range of resources on their web pages to support you with various mental health topics, including anger, self-esteem and resilience.
10th – 16th June 2018: Infant Mental Health Awareness Week
The focus for this year’s Infant Mental Health Awareness Week is Breaking the Cycle of Intergenerational Trauma to Promote Secure Attachment.
As part of the week and the Best Start Campaign, the Western Trust asked Rachel Cashel, MindWise Child & Family Services Manager, member of Fermanagh and Omagh Locality Planning Groups some questions about message three in the campaign: “Give your child lots of love affection and praise’’.
Rachel, what does your project deliver?
MindWises Child & Family Services has been in operation for four years now and the families we have worked with have achieved some incredible outcomes, we remain committed to and focused on promoting the wellness of children & families. We are currently exploring what other programmes compliment what we are already offering so Solihull, Baby Massage and Think Family are high on our priorities for the next few years
Why does this message mean so much for families you support Rachel?
As Suzanne touched on the pressures and anxieties experienced by families has such a huge knock on effect to family life, that’s not to point the finger at parents, it’s the times we are living in. As a new parent myself I’m all too aware of the stress of juggling work, finances & family life. The programme we offer meets families in their home, takes on-board the triggers, signs & symptoms & explores effective ways to cope & promote wellness in the home. We help families break it down & make it more manageable.
How can we all support families to thrive?
We need to ‘Think Family’ & work in partnership! We need to support everyone in the home. I always use the analogy of a baby cot mobile, if one toy moves it causes all the toys to move and that is the same for families if one person is experiencing mental health difficulties, all the family will experience something at some level. So it is important that we engage with the whole family & offer interventions to meet the needs of each family member Our services work with antenatal mums & mums with an infant to two years old, children five-twelve and any other adult family member.
If you had one aspiration for families in the West Rachel what would it be?
That any family wishing to access support could access it without waiting. Unfortunately due to budget restrictions and limited resources waiting lists exist & on occasions referral pathways have to close due to capacity reached. It highlights the growing need, the demand for our services and the lack of funding.
To read The Best Start in Life for Your Child booklet, click here.
14th May 2018: Mental Health Awareness Week
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, hosted by Mental Health Foundation, is focusing on stress. Research has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this.
To launch the week the Mental Health Foundation has released a report, ‘Stress: Are We Coping?‘ It also focuses on what we can do to manage and reduce stress and our recommendations for the government in creating a stress-free UK.
While stress isn’t a mental health problem in itself, it often leads to depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide. It can also lead to physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease and joint and muscle problems.
Information on how many people in the UK population as a whole are affected by stress is very limited. However, this new survey found that over the past year, almost three quarters (74%) of people have at some point felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
The Mental Health Foundation have made 7 recommendations for a less stressed nation:
- Health and social care professionals should assess and address the psychological and other stressors experienced by people living with long-term physical health conditions.
- People presenting to a ‘first point of contact’ service in distress should receive a compassionate and trauma-informed response, regardless of where they live in the country.
- Government and the Health & Safety Executive must ensure that employers treat physical and psychological hazards in the workplace equally and help employers recognise and address psychological hazards in the workplace under existing legislation.
- Governments across the UK should introduce a minimum of two mental health days for every public sector worker.
- Mental health literacy should be a core competency in teacher training. This should be combined with rolling out mental health literacy support for pupils in schools across the UK to embed a ‘whole-school approach’ to mental health and wellbeing.
- The government should conduct an impact assessment of welfare reform and austerity programmes on mental health.
- More research is needed on the prevalence of stress in the population, and on how the experience of stress can be reduced at the community and societal level.
Throughout the week the Family Wellness Project will be providing online information and resources around stress for parents and children. Keep an eye on the Family Wellness Project webpages throughout the week for updates. You can follow everything that is taking place throughout Mental Health Awareness Week by following the hashtag on social media.
5th February 2018: Children’s Mental Health Week
Place2Be launched the first ever Children’s Mental Health Week in 2015 to support children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. Now in its fourth year, the Family Wellness Project is getting involved and spreading the word too, because Children’s Mental Health Matters!
Children’s Mental Health Week 2018 #childrensmhw is all about highlighting the importance of ‘Being Ourselves’ #BeingOurselves, celebrating the unique qualities and strengths in themselves and others. Place2be explains “When we have a positive view of ourselves, it can help us to cope with life’s challenges and make better connections with others. At the same time, celebrating the unique strengths of the people around us can enable us to come together in our schools, workplaces and communities”.
The Family Wellness Project has a busy week of activities planned across Fermanagh, South Tyrone and online. Around 140 children will benefit from art and mindfulness activities throughout the week to get people talking about the importance of children’s mental health.
Rachel Cashel, Mindwise Family Services Manager, explains “When we talk about children’s mental health, it is about basic emotions and how children can manage these. As the significant adults in our children’s lives we play a role in showing children it is ok to talk about feelings and we need to let children observe the positive coping strategies we use to manage our feelings so they can also learn positive coping strategies.”
During the week Holy Trinity Primary School Enniskillen, Enniskillen Model Primary School and Enniskillen Integrated Primary School will be participating in art workshops with Anne-Marie from The Funky Junk Workshop. Children will be using the workshops as an opportunity to decorate a mask with the unique qualities that make them themselves. All the artwork produced will go on display in Fermanagh House, Ennskillen on Saturday 10th February 10am – 12 noon where children, families and friends are invited to come along and view the children’s creations. All artwork will remain on display until the end of February.
The Family Wellness Project in partnership with AWARE will be delivering children’s Mindfulness sessions in 3 local primary schools, Kesh Primary School (Co. Fermanagh), Queen Elizabeth II Primary School (Kilkeery, Co. Tyrone) and Dromore Primary School (Co. Tyrone) throughout the day on Tuesday 6th February. These sessions allow children to take an hour out of their busy school day to relax & be present in the moment. Children learn tools and techniques on how to continue practicing Mindfulness at home after the sessions have ended. Carolyn Blair from AWARE added, “We have seen how Mindfulness sessions can have a positive effect on the children’s moods. They can help them feel less stressed and anxious, more calm and can improve their concentration levels and overall wellbeing.”
Keep an eye on our webpages here and on social media throughout the week for resources and activities to help celebrate the week.
Art workshops and Mindfulness sessions will also run in the Southern Trust area later in the year.
1st February 2018: Time to Talk Day
Today is Time to Change‘s annual campaign, Time to Talk Day, which encourages everyone to have conversations about mental health so that people struggling with their mental health feel less ashamed and isolated.
Talking about mental health is not always easy, but starting conversations doesn’t have to be difficult or awkward. Just being there for someone can make a huge difference.
There is no right way, time or place to talk about mental health. You can talk about mental health anywhere!
If your’re not sure how to start the conversation, the Family Wellness Project have some tips for approaching mental health with your child. You can also use some of these tips when talking to family and friends about mental health too.
15th January 2018: Blue Monday
Today is the day coined “Blue Monday” by psychologist Cliff Arnall, which came about in 2005 after a holiday company persuaded him to create a ‘scientific formula’ to find out when ‘the most depressing day of the year’ was. He took into account weather, debt, time since Christmas, time since failing in our new year’s resolutions, motivational levels, and the feeling of a need to take action. (He also calculated that 24 June or other dates close to midsummer would be “the happiest day of the year”.)
It’s easy to understand why January would cause a slump in your mood but it’s important to remember that despite the PR and media coverage given to this particular date, depression and mental ill health can occur at any time of the year. Mental health does not discriminate, it can strike anyone at anytime.
These type of marketing campaigns which suggest that it’s okay to feel depressed on specific days of the year over others, can also make it worse for those struggling with their mental health.
This Blue Monday know that it’s okay to not feel okay on any day of the year and that support is available for you. The Family Wellness Project has lots of information on these webpages on mental health to help support parents with their own mental health and also to help them talk to their children about feelings and emotions.
The Family Wellness Project also has parent support groups to explore self-care, managing stress, positive parenting, wellness tools and developing resilience.
If you would like more information on the Family Wellness Project you can contact the Project Coordinator. For more support with parenting and mental health you can contact Parenting NI on freephone 0808 8010 722.
10th October: World Mental Health Day
One in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem each year. It is even more concerning that nine out of ten of those people will experience stigma and discrimination because of it.
This is often particularly prevalent at work, so this year’s World Mental Health Day is Mental Health in the Workplace.
Why is it important?
There is concern over employees continuing to work even when they are ill because they don’t want to take time off, this in turn leads to lower productivity.
Poor mental health is responsible for more than 70 million lost working days each year.
It’s important for employers to recognise that initiatives to promote mental health and wellbeing not only improve the health of their work force but also increases their output. When staff feel looked after and happy at work, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated and loyal.
What can I do to raise awareness of mental wellbeing in my workplace?
- Get people talking – talk to staff about it being World Mental Health Day and encourage them to talk about it. You could email this link around employees.
- Browse the resources available from the Mental Health Foundation.
- Organise a Tea and Talk session to open up the conversation about what is needed in your work place.
- Suggest your organisation has a mental health champion – this person will be a direct link between employees and senior management, taking the lead in talking about mental health.
- Raise awareness of support and training available, such as through Parenting NI Employee Wellbeing Seminars or MindWise WorkWise Training.
What mental health adjustments could you request at work?
Change in hours
This may help avoid rush hour, busy public transport or if getting up early is difficult. For example, if you usually work 9am-5pm, 10am to 6pm might take the pressure off the mornings. If you’re a shift worker and the unpredictable instability is difficult, it may be possible to work a set pattern of shifts.
Some flexibility may help if you need to take time off at short notice, for example going to a dental appointment or attending parent/teacher meetings. Knowing you can work a couple of extra hours another day will reduce the pressure.
Change of environment
For some people, a busy distracting environment may be difficult to handle, for others, lack of contact or lone working may be a problem. You could explore options such as moving to a quieter or busier workspace, working alongside another person, using aids such as earphones or working from home occasionally.
Support with managing workload
It may help to focus on fewer pieces of work at the moment and this can be reviewed regularly. Weekly catch-up sessions may be helpful regarding all aspects of work. It may be possible to be assigned a mentor who’ll have more time than a manager and may be able to offer a listening ear and solutions if small difficulties arise.
For support with coping with stress, anxiety and depression check out our Parental Mental Health webpage.
22nd September: Latest News – Family Wellness Project Support Groups
Do you have a child aged 5 – 12 years who may be experiencing emotional health and well-being difficulties such as low self-esteem, anger or anxiety?
Do you have 1½ -2 hours free on one evening each month to share experiences and gain knowledge with other parents and carers in a similar position, in a relaxed, safe and confidential environment?
Then maybe our support group is something you would consider.
Held on a weekday evening, once a month for approximately 1.5 – 2 hours in a local community setting in your area, meetings are an opportunity to share experience and knowledge with other parents and carers in a similar position in a safe, relaxed and confidential environment. Various topics on positive parenting approaches will be covered at each meeting including:
- Managing stress and identifying negative triggers
- Positive parenting strategies
- Wellness tools
- Developing resilience
- … and of course any other topics that may arise during group discussion.
The Support Group meetings are focused on examining what tools are available to prevent further emotional health and well-being difficulties from arising, through developing skills and knowledge from others under the guidance of a facilitator.
- Omagh: Monday 5th March, The Station Centre. 11am-12.30pm
- Craigavon: Wednesday 14th March, Brownlow Hub. 10am-12pm Wednesday 21st March, Brownlow Hub. 7-9pm
- Newry: Tuesday 20th March, Ballybot House. 10.30am-12.30pm.
- Enniskillen: Monday 26th March, Fermanagh House. 7-9pm.
If you are interested in attending one of our groups in your area, please contact Charmaine McCorry (Family Wellness Project Support Group Facilitator) on T: 07740410169 or E: email@example.com to complete a referral form.
8th – 14th May 2017: Mental Health Awareness Week
This year the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Surviving or Thriving?’
We all have mental health. Good mental health is an asset that helps us to thrive. This is not just the absence of a mental health problem, but having the ability to think, feel and act in a way that allows us to enjoy life and deal with the challenges it presents. Yet, it can be easy to assume that ongoing stress is the price we have to pay to keep our lives on track. It is time to challenge that assumption.
To launch the week the Mental Health Foundation released the Surviving or Thriving report, which details results of their UK survey. This aimed to understand the prevalence of self-reported mental health problems, levels of positive and negative mental health in the population, and the actions people take to deal with the stressors in their lives.
- Only a small minority of people (13%) report living with high levels of good mental health.
- People over the age of 55 report experiencing better mental health than average.
- People aged 55 and above are the most likely to take positive steps to help themselves deal better with everyday life – including spending time with friends and family, going for a walk, spending more time on interests, getting enough sleep, eating healthily and learning new things.
- More than 4 in 10 people say they have experienced depression
- Over a quarter of people say they have experienced panic attacks.
- The most notable differences are associated with household income and economic activity – nearly 3 in 4 people living in the lowest household income bracket report having exprienced a mental health problem, compared to 6 in 10 of the highest household income bracket.
- The great majority (85%) of people out of work have experienced a mental health problem compared to two thirds of people in work and just over half of people who have retired.
- Nearly two-thirds of people say that they have experienced a mental health problem. This rises to 7 in every 10 women, young adults aged 18-34 and people living alone.
The survey suggests that our collective mental health is deteriorating. Overall most of us report experiencing a mental health problem in our lifetime. However, young adults report this at a higher level, despite having had fewer years in their lives to experience this. While there may be an element which reflects a greater ease at acknowledging a mental health problem, nevertheless this suggests a real and emerging problem. It is possible that it is linked to greater insecurities in life expectations for work, relationships and homes. The reasons and solutions warrant investigation.
The figures show that the experience of poor mental health, while touching every age and demographic, is not evenly distributed. If you are female, a young adult, on low income, living alone or in a large household, your risks of facing mental ill health are higher.
The report concludes that current levels of good mental health are disturbingly low. Great strides have been made to improve the health of our bodies and life expectancy, but we now need to achieve the same for the good health of our minds.
6th April 2017: World Health Day – Depression, Let’s Talk
World Health Day is celebrated every year on the 7th April which marks the anniversary of the World Health Organisation being founded. It provides an opportunity to mobilize action around a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world.
This year the theme is Depression.
Depression affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. It impacts on people’s ability to carry out everyday tasks, affects relationships with family and friends and the ability to earn a living. At worst, depression can lead to suicide, now the second leading cause of death among 15 – 29 year olds.
According to the latest estimates from WHO, more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015.
Yet, depression can be prevented and treated. A better understanding of what depression is, and how it can be prevented and treated, will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition, and lead to more people seeking help.
What is aiming to be achieved?
The overall goal of the campaign is that more people with depression, in all countries, seek and get help.
More specifically, we are aiming to achieve the following:
- the general public is better informed about depression, it causes and possible consequences, including suicide, and what help is or can be available for prevention and treatment;
- people with depression seek help; and
- family, friends and colleagues of people living with depression are able to provide support.
Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives. At the core of the campaign is the importance of talking about depression as a vital component of recovery. The stigma surrounding mental illness, including depression, remains a barrier to people seeking help throughout the world. Talking about depression, whether with a family member, friend or medical professional; in larger groups, for example in schools, the workplace and social settings; or in the public domain, in the news media, blogs or social media, helps break down this stigma, ultimately leading to more people seeking help.
So tomorrow, for World Health Day why don’t you have a chat about mental health and particularly about depression. You can check out resources we have on Depression here and you can also head to World Health Organisation’s website for their campaign toolkit.
7th February 2017: Children’s Mental Health Week
We are pleased to support Children’s Mental Health Week (6-12 February).
Hosted by children’s mental health charity Place2Be, the theme this year is ‘spread a little kindness’.
Moving schools, struggling in class, bullying, trouble at home – children go through tough times just like the rest of us.
And while we cannot always change their circumstances, a small gesture – whether it’s lending a listening ear, offering a helping hand, or just telling someone how much you appreciate them – can make a big difference.
When children feel supported by peers and grown-ups, they are better able to deal with difficult transitions. Not only that, but scientists have proven that being kind to ourselves and others is good for our brains – and our relationships!
16th January 2017: Make Blue Monday Bright!
This Monday is commonly known as ‘Blue Monday’ – the most depressing day of the year. Every year we are bombarded by media telling everyone should be feeling down and depressed in January. So this year we’ve decided to counteract that together with partner organisations in England, Scotland and Wales by doing something different and putting a positive spin on the day.
We are renaming the day Bright Monday and we are asking everyone to get involved in one of three ways:
- Wear bright clothing on Bright Monday – anything from a colourful shirt or tie to brightly coloured socks!
- Dress up your workspace – print off our colourful bunting or decorate your area with some new plants, print out a quote, a joke, or a photo that makes you smile, or set up a small bowl of fresh fruit on your desk.
- Brighten up someone’s day – offer to make a hot drink for a colleague you haven’t spoken to recently, get some biscuits in for your team or if you have a meeting, or pay someone a compliment.
We hope everyone will get involved and use social media to show us what they are getting up to during the day using the #BrightMonday hashtag.
7th December 2016: Tips for How to Avoid Passing Anxiety on to your Children
There is evidence that children of anxious parents are more likely to exhibit anxiety themselves, a probable combination of genetic risk factors and mirrored behaviours. Seeing a parent feeling anxious can be more than momentarily upsetting for children. Children look to their parents for information on how to interpret ambiguous situations; and if they see their parents seem consistently anxious, the child will feel that a number of scenarios are unsafe.
It can be hurtful to think that, despite your best intentions, you find your anxiety is having an effect on your child. If you do find that this is the case it’s important not to feel really guilty about it but to seek support.
Whilst it is not inevitable that your anxiety will transmit to your child, if you struggle with anxiety it is a good idea to have strategies in place to help you avoid your child feeling anxious.
Learn stress management techniques
It can be very difficult to communicate a sense of calm to your child when you are trying to struggling to cope with your own anxiety. If you learn to tolerate stress you will in turn be teaching your child how to cope with situations of uncertainty or doubt, as they take their cues from your behaviour.
Try to remain a calm, neutral demeanour in front of your child whilst you are managing your own anxiety. Be aware of your facial expressions, the words you chose and the intensity of the emotion you express.
Explain your anxiety
You don’t want your child to witness every anxious moment you have, but you don’t want to suppress your emotions from them either. It is ok for your children to see you cope with stress sometimes as long as you explain why you reacted the way you did.
For example, maybe you are running late to get the children to school on time and you lose your temper. Later, when you are calm, maybe in the car on the journey you could explain by saying “Remember earlier I got frustrated and lost my temper? I was feeling worried because I thought you were going to be late for school and I managed that frustration was by shouting, but there are other ways of managing feeling stressed too. Maybe we can look at a better routine for leaving the house in the morning.”
Talking about anxiety gives children permission to feel the stress but also send the message that it is manageable.
Make a plan
Try to come up with a plan in advance for managing specific situations that trigger your anxiety and maybe even include your children in making the plan. For example, if you find yourself feeling anxious about getting your son ready for bed by a reasonable hour, talk to him about how you can work together to better handle this stress in the future. Maybe you can come up with a plan wherein he earns points toward a treat whenever he goes through his evening routine without protesting his bedtime.
These strategies should be used sparingly: You don’t want to put the responsibility on your child to manage your anxiety if it effects many aspects of your life. But seeing you implement a plan to curb specific anxious moments lets him know that stress can be tolerated and managed.
Know when to disengage
If you know that a situation causes you undue stress, you might want to plan ahead to absent yourself from that situation so your children will not interpret it as unsafe. Let’s say, for example, that school drop-offs fill you with separation anxiety. Eventually you want to be able to take your child to school, but if it’s something you struggle with and need support on managing, you can ask a co-parent, family member or friend to handle the drop off until you have strategies in place to help you manage that anxiety. You wouldn’t want to model very worried behaviour in front of your children at school as this may then cause them to feel anxious about school.
In general, if you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with anxiety in the presence of your child, try to take a break. Take some time to yourself and engage in stress-relieving activities when you start to feel acutely anxious: take a walk, drink tea, or have a nice bath.
Find a support system
Trying to parent while struggling with your own mental health can be a challenge, but you don’t have to do it alone. Rely on the people in your life who will step in when you feel overwhelmed, or even just offer words of support. Those people can be counsellors or mental health professionals, co-parents, or friends.
10th October 2016: World Mental Health Day
World Mental Health Day takes place on the 10th October every year. According to the World Health Organisation if we don’t act urgently, depression will be the leading illness globally by 2030.
Statistically speaking, it is likely that you or one of your friends or family will be affected at some point. In fact, in Northern Ireland one in five people will struggle with mental health issues in their lifetime.
Many in Northern Ireland may be reluctant to take the step to talk to someone about their mental health. However, by choosing to to be open about mental health, we are all part of a movement that’s breaking down mental health stigma and discrimination.
We’re using the day to highlight “5 Ways to Wellbeing”, which have been identified through extensive reviews of research and expert opinion as simple actions that anyone can take that will have a positive impact on their day to day wellbeing.
1. Take Notice
Hit the pause button for a moment, breath and take notice of the things around you and take stock of what is important to you.
Asking someone ‘are you ok’ and taking the time to listen.
3. Get Active
Remember a thousand miles begins with the first step
4. Keep Learning
Take a look through the resources on our webpage or begin to refocus on your goals and look at ways to learn to achieve them.
Reach out and lend a helping hand in your family, among friends, in your school, community or workplace. Make up a buddy bag – containing a small gift to help someone smile.
Get involved this World Mental Health Day by trying to put some of the 5 Steps to Wellbeing in place in your daily routine. You can download some resources below which you can use today to talk highlight World Mental Health Day.
18th August 2016: Transition
It’s not long until schools starts back and for some children this will mean a big transition from primary to secondary school. This change will be met with excitement and anxiety; the anticipation of making new friends and learning new things will also be combined with uncertainty over what their new school will be like, stricter teachers, more homework and maybe not making friends. These are all normal things to feel before a big change.
Transition is about adapting to new circumstances. From infancy children are learning to adapt and discovering ways of forming and sustaining relationships with those around them that will help them deal with adversity and embrace challenge and change. This is central to children’s developing mental health and it’s also central to their engagement with school and their capacity for learning.
Most children will find ways to adapt, but some may find change much harder to cope with and struggle to benefit from the opportunities offered by secondary school. For children who may struggle to cope with the change this could see the emergence of underlying mental health problems, so it’s important your child is prepared and supported through transition.
For further support with transition click to download the Moving On From Primary School Booklet
29th June 2016: Two-Thirds of Parents Fear Child Mental Illness is a ‘Life Sentence’
The Guardian published an article yesterday detailing research which shows that two-thirds of parents fear their child would be facing a “life sentence” if they developed a mental health issue in childhood.
A survey of 2,061 adults, including 500 parents, found that 67% of parents believe their child may never recover from being diagnosed with mental illness. Parents worry about the affect it may have on their child’s future with many concerned that they may not get a job, find a partner or have a family as a result of a mental health condition.
This has raised further concern about pressures on the NHS and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services to deal with the growing number of children and young people experiencing mental health issues.
The Family Wellness Project exists to enhance the emotional health and wellbeing of children aged 5-12 who may be at risk of developing significant mental health difficulties with the view of reducing the need for them to be referred on to more intensive or long term support from services like CAMHS.
We know that mental health difficulties are preventable and that receiving support as early as possible is key. You can use our webpages to find resources relating to support for a number of difficulties your child may be experiencing and also around things like talking to your child about their emotional health and wellbeing.
You can find out more about the project by contacting us on 07773221967 or email Rachel.Cashel@mindwisenv.org.
13th June 2016: Men’s Health Week
Today marks the start of Men’s Health Week with 2016’s theme being ‘Men United – For Health and Wellbeing’.
Men’s Health Week aims to raise awareness of preventable health problems for males of all ages, support men and boys to engage in healthier lifestyles and encourage early detection and treatment of health difficulties in males.
We know that there are strong links between physical and mental health and that sometimes men can find it harder to open up about any issues they may be experiencing. Yet, one in eight men in the UK experience a mental health disorder and 78% of UK suicides are by men*. Men are more likely to be affected by work stress, relationship problems, job loss, financial worries and family responsibities.
This Men’s Health Week we want to encourage men and boys to talk about mental health. We hope that men and boys will use the week to reflect on their mental health and try something to help their emotional health and wellbeing during the week. You can use some of the resources we have online or try some of ReachOut’s tips for working on your mental fitness.
*Statistics from Men’s Health Forum.
16th May 2016: Mental Health Awareness Week
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and this year the theme is relationships. The theme was chosen to highlight how fundamental relationships are to our health and wellbeing.
We are far more likely to make a resolution to improve our physical health rather than our emotional health. We know that emotional health is just as important to our wellbeing as physical health, and good relationships are just as vital as other more established lifestyle factors like a good diet, exercise and giving up smoking.
The Mental Health Foundation, the organisation which coordinates the week are asking us to prioritise relationships this week.
The Family Wellness Project aims to enhance the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children aged 5-12 by working with the whole family, which includes improving relationships and communication in the home.
Keep an eye on our webpages and social media across the week to find out more about our project and to find resources as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.
Check out the video from the Mental Health Foundation on relationships and how good relationships have a positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing.
1st March 2016: Talking to Your Children About Mental Health
We wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone who got involved with Children’s Mental Health Week. Whether you liked or shared some posts on social media, or even used it as an opportunity to talk to your children about their feelings and emotions, that is fantastic!
An extra special thank you to all those who completed the Talking to your Children about Mental Health survey. Your responses have given us lots of ideas on how to move forward on resources for the project and we will share the developments of those with you soon.
Take a look at a summary of the findings from the survey:
8th February 2016: Children’s Mental Health Week
Children’s Mental Health Week kicks off today and the Family Wellness Project will be getting involved here on the website and on social media by providing lots of information and resources across the week.
The theme of Children’s Mental Health Week this year is ‘building resilience’ and teaching children to ‘bounce forward’ from life’s challenges. The Duchess of Cambridge is supporting and has launched the week with a special video message:
Children’s Mental Health Week campaign hopes to raise awareness of the benefits of getting children support at the earliest possible opportunity, and to encourage parents/carers to talk openly with children about their feelings and getting help. With that in mind, we want to know how you feel about talking to your child about mental health. Your answers will help inform what resources we will put together for parents/carers on the subject. Take the survey by clicking on the banner below.
18th January 2016: Blue Monday
Today is “Blue Monday”, supposedly the most depressing day of the year. There are a number of reasons that January 18th is a sad day: bad weather, post Christmas debt, work and pay day still seems distant. Research from Co-op has also said that January is a month that we are at our loneliest. It’s a grim combination, but the Family Wellness Project want to encourage you to Beat Blue Monday! Here are some tips to help chase the blues away.
1. Meet up with your mates
There is a strong link between your sense of wellbeing and your relationship with others. It’s good to make time and keep in touch with your friends or to try to meet new people and get to know them. Why not try to organise a catch up with some friends today, they could maybe do with some cheering up on Blue Monday too!
2. Give something back
Giving something back can often lift our mood. Something as simple as saying thank you, smiling, feeling grateful for even the little things and praising other people could make someone else’s day and that’s something to feel good about.
3. Set yourself a goal
It can be hard to feel motivated in late January, especially if you are still trying to stick to a New Year’s Resolution or may have broken it. But why not try and set yourself a new, realistic goal which will give you a new focus. It doesn’t have to be something big but be open to new ideas, use support and include others to enjoy new experiences. One of those experiences could be attending one of the project’s free wellbeing programmes.
4. Think positively
When we’re feeling down it’s easy to focus on the negatives but don’t lose hope and try to look on the bright side – don’t be too hard on yourself and think of the achievements you have made.
5. Treat Yourself
Take a little “me time” and treat yourself, book that holiday or hit the sales and treat yourself to something new to wear or read. Do things for you and that you enjoy.
6. Be Active
Have confidence to go out and seek out activities, information or experiences. The saying “a healthy body is a healthy mind” is true, exercise releases a rush of happy chemicals (known as endorphins) in your brain. You don’t need to do anything too extreme either, just a 10 minute brisk walk will do the trick!
Happy Monday everyone! Let’s #beatbluemonday.