Introduction to mental health

Our mental health determines how we think, feel and act. Good mental health is when you feel positive about yourself and cope well with the everyday pressures. If you experience issues dealing with everyday problems, it could be a sign of a mental health problem and should be addressed immediately.

One in five

One in five people in Northern Ireland will experience potential mental health problems.

Anyone can suffer from mental health problems. While certain individuals or groups are more vulnerable, no one is immune to poor mental health.

People with mental health problems often face stigma, which can prevent them from seeking help and hinder their recovery.

Preserving good mental health

There are five simple steps that can help you maintain and improve your wellbeing.  Try to build these into your daily life – think of them as your ‘five a day’ for wellbeing:

  • connect – spend time developing your relationships with your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours
  • be active – you don’t have to go to the gym, but taking part in physical activity such as walking or playing football will help you stay mentally healthy
  • keep learning – learning new skills can give you a sense of confidence and achievement
  • take notice – be more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts, feelings and body
  • give to others – acts of kindness can improve your own mood and have a positive impact on your own mental health

 

Mental health conditions

There is a range of mental health conditions a person can suffer from, including:

 

Early warning signs

There are some early warning signs that you should be aware of that can suggest something may be harming your mental health. These can be one or a number of the following:

  • mood swings or constantly feeling low
  • lack of care for personal appearance or personal responsibilities
  • increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • thinking life is not worth living
  • losing interest in things you used to enjoy
  • withdrawing from social activities and spending less time with friends and family
  • disturbed sleep, either not getting enough or sleeping too much
  • eating less than normal or overeating, perhaps losing or gaining weight
  • feeling irritable, over-sensitive or aggressive
  • having difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • experiencing recurring physical symptoms such as aches and pains or other 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 can relate to any of these warning signs, it’s important that you seek help. Talk to a friend or a family member and speak to your GP about support services available to you.

Alcohol and drugs

Many people drink alcohol without experiencing any problems. Enjoying a couple of drinks can be part of a normal social life or help some people relax. For others, however, alcohol is associated with a range of mental health problems, including depression.

Alcohol has also been linked to suicide. According to the Mental Health Foundation:

  • 65 per cent of suicides have been linked to drinking too much alcohol
  • 70 per cent  of men who kill themselves have consumed alcohol before doing so
  • almost a third of suicides among young people happen while the person is intoxicated

Using illegal drugs has also been linked to mental health problems. For some people, taking drugs can lead to long-term mental health problems. Others may already be experiencing mental health problems and use drugs to manage their condition.

Long term use of drugs including cannabis and ecstasy has been linked to conditions such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. Cannabis also affects how your brain works, so regular use can make concentration and learning difficult.

Users can also develop a physical or psychological dependence, becoming addicted.

Recovering from mental health problems

People can and do recover from mental health problems. Recovery can be a process, rather than a particular outcome.

The recovery process:

  • does not always mean getting back to where you were before
  • will have ups and downs
  • requires commitment from you and support from your family and friends
  • can allow you to lead a normal life
  • will involve finding your own ways of coping with life’s challenges

For many people, recovery is about staying in control of their life, despite experiencing mental health problems.

Certain factors which can help in a successful recovery include:

  • good relationships – it is vital to have support from family and friends
  • self-direction – a person in recovery needs to decide their own direction and goals
  • having a positive living/working/education environment that helps in recovery
  • financial security
  • responsibility – a person in recovery needs to develop their own self-care skills

Recovery is a unique and individual process and, while there may be common themes and experiences, each person’s recovery will be unique.

Recovery colleges

Recovery Colleges offer a range of courses which are open to all members of the public, over the age of 16, in each of the five Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland. 

Courses are designed and delivered by mental health specialists, carers and experts.

Recovery Colleges are open to:

  • families
  • friends
  • carers
  • service users
  • staff
  • those with an interest in wellbeing and mental health

 

More useful links

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.