This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 9th May until 15th May. To mark the week, AWARE, the depression charity for Northern Ireland, is encouraging people to take the first step towards better mental health by coming along to one of their support groups.
AWARE’s free-to-attend peer support groups welcome people of all ages experiencing depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. They are facilitated by a team of trained volunteers, many of whom have personal experience of mental ill-health. Attendees can meet others going through similar experiences and find out how to get further help if they need it.
22-year-old Jordan Poucher attends the AWARE support group in Newry. “Depression is a very lonely illness, he says, “It’s easy to feel alienated. But when I sit down at an AWARE support group, I look around at smiling faces and people of all ages. I realise everybody is in the same boat as me. Everybody understands what I’m going through.”
Kate Richardson, Communications Officer at AWARE, said, “Living with a mental health problem can be isolating, but it’s important to know that you are not alone. Mental ill-health is common, affecting one in five adults in Northern Ireland, but also treatable. We believe that talking to others who know how you feel is an important step in your journey to recovery. That’s where our support groups come in.”
Eve Elliott (20) joined the Newry support group after experiencing a bout of anxiety and depression at university. She said, “The hardest part is walking through the door for the first time, but I’ve never regretted attending an AWARE support group. It’s given me a sense of community. Suddenly I am surrounded by people who understand me.
“When you’re young, you’re at this fork in the road where you’re trying to find yourself and make important decisions. It’s crucial to have a good network of support around you. AWARE’s support groups are a safe space. We laugh together, and we cry together.”
This week, Eve and Jordan are telling their stories in a special ‘My Journey with Depression’ video series on AWARE’s social media. The series platforms AWARE’s young service users’ and volunteers’ stories to encourage young people struggling with their mental health to come and use the charity’s services.
The charity is also hosting a Sunset Climb of Cavehill on Thursday 12th May to encourage people to get together, talk and stay active.
The Newry area AWARE support group meets weekly every Wednesday from 7.30pm in Altnaveigh House (opposite Tesco) all welcome. To find out more about AWARE, visit www.aware-ni.org, or if you’re interested in attending a support group, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.