Introduction to mental health

A healthy mental health is when you feel good about yourself and cope well with the everyday pressures of life. Good mental health should be a priority for everyone.

One in five

Good mental health is more than the absence of problems. Mental health problems are conditions identified by changes in:

  • thinking
  • mood
  • behaviour

One in five people in Northern Ireland will experience problems that affect their mental health. 

People with mental health problems often face stigma and discrimination.  Fear of these reactions can prevent people from getting help and hinder their recovery.

Five steps to good mental health

There are five steps that can improve mental well-being. 


Connect with the people around you: your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Spend time developing these relationships.

Be active

You don't have to go to the gym; take a walk, go cycling or play football. Find an activity you enjoy and make it a part of your life.

Keep learning

Learning new skills can give you a sense of achievement and a new confidence. By joining a course, you could learn to play a musical instrument or work out how to fix a bicycle.

Give to others

Even the smallest act counts, whether it's a smile, a ‘thank you’ or a kind word. Larger acts, such as volunteering in your area, can improve your mental well-being and help you make new friends.

Take notice

Be more aware of the present moment, including your feelings and thoughts, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness ‘mindfulness’, and it can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.

Feeling down, miserable or can’t cope

If you feel pessimistic, unhappy or incapable most or all of the time, or experience other early warning signs of a potential mental health issue, the first thing you should know is that you’re not alone.

If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, telephone Lifeline:

Early warning signs

There are some early warning signs that may suggest mental ill-health or a mental health problem. These include:

  • mood swings or a consistently lower mood
  • lack of care for personal appearance or personal responsibilities
  • increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • talking about not wanting to live
  • a loss of interest in doing things you previously enjoyed
  • withdrawing from social activities or spending less time with family and friends
  • disturbed sleep, perhaps not getting enough sleep or sleeping too much
  • eating less than normal or overeating, perhaps losing or gaining weight
  • being more irritable, over-sensitive or aggressive
  • having difficulty following a conversation, remembering things or concentrating
  • experiencing recurrent physical symptoms such as aches, pains or unexplained illnesses
  • a drop in work performance
  • doing things that don’t make sense to others
  • hearing or seeing things that no-one else can hear or see

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these, help is available. You can use  "Find a mental health organisation" link below to search for mental health organisations in your area.

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