Awareness for Aware NI

Wednesday 18 July, 2018 Mental Health

10th October is World Mental Health Day. The support on social media on this day is always overwhelming. At Aperture, we are keen to raise awareness for mental health not just one day of the year – but every day! There are some fantastic mental health charities and resources here in Northern Ireland, and one that is really close to my heart, is Aware NI.

Aware NI was established in 1996 and is a charity revolved around helping those with depression and bipolar disorder, as well as supporting carers for people with the illness. It is the only charity in Northern Ireland to work exclusively for people with depression and bipolar disorder.

Aware NI deliver a range of services to help and support those dealing with mental health issues. They attend community events to let people know what support and services are available to them, and deliver mental health and wellbeing programmes into communities, schools, colleges, universities and workplaces. These programmes include Mood Matters programmes, Living Life to the Full, Mental Health First Aid and Mindfulness, which are all designed to provide practical support and coping mechanisms to those living with, or caring for those with, mental illness.

As well as all this fantastic support, Aware NI also run 25 support groups throughout Northern Ireland… and that is where I come in!

For the past year, I have been facilitating one of these groups, located in East Belfast. These face-to-face support groups are a place where individuals can come to meet others with similar experiences, and helps people to understand and deal with these illnesses. The groups provide individuals with an opportunity to speak freely about how they are feeling, share information, discuss options and support each other to move forward.

I am a Support Group Facilitator and it is my job to manage the group, to direct the flow of conversation and ensure that no group agreement rules are broken. I am also responsible for monitoring what is said in the group, along with providing additional support to those who are feeling particularly vulnerable, and ensuring everyone who wants to, has had a chance to speak. I also make sure that members are aware of the different services and helplines available, as well as distributing material and acting as an ambassador for Aware NI.

These groups are safe, dynamic places where members offer each other invaluable information and support. No judgement and no drama – in 2016, 5200 people in Northern Ireland attended one of the 25 peer support groups.

These support groups are for anyone suffering from depression and bipolar disorder, mild to severe, clinically diagnosed or not. Friends, family and carers of sufferers are more than welcome to the groups also. Members come to the groups for many different reasons, they may have depression due to a physical illness, relationship problems, work-related stress, family problems, and even depression arising from debt and financial stress.

As part of Aperture’s research into the ‘Psychology of Debt’, it was found that one in four people with a mental health problem are also in debt, and that one in two people who are in debt have a mental health problem. It’s clear from this to see that there is a strong correlation between debt and mental health. That is why Aperture offer their clients tips and suggestions for managing stress, how to budget and ensure clients get to speak to a caring, non-judgemental advisor; because they believe in supporting their client’s mental health and well as their debt recovery.

Volunteering for Aware NI and helping support those with depression and bipolar is something I hold close to my heart, because I strongly believe those living with a mental illness should have access to outstanding support and care. To work with such a genuine charity which strives to really make a difference in people’s lives is something very special and something Aperture can draws parallels to.

You can learn more about Aware NI and the great work they do here.