Aware Defeat Depression is in talks to open a Rathcoole support group as increasing numbers of people in the area seek mental health care.
The charity, whose head office is in Duncairn Gardens, already runs programmes catering for all age groups in the Newtownabbey area.
These include a Mood Matters programme for young people at Hazelwood College, youth clubs at St Mary’s on the Hill Parish, and an upcoming initiative at Newtownabbey Community High School. In addition, the group works with Newtownabbey Senior Citizens’ Forum, and has run a Later Years programme for the elderly in New Mossley.
Aware’s spokeswoman Michelle Byrne explained: “Depression affects one in four people at some stage in their lives. We have a tailored approach to different age groups, from young people aged 14-18 in schools to later years programmes. We also offer help for mothers with post natal depression.
“Our biggest initiative in Rathcoole is working with Mental Health Matters and we are hoping to get more information out so that people can come along and find out what help there is.
“Depression is an isolating illness and people don’t know where to turn or who to talk to. If the information is readily available they will get the courage to seek the help they need.”
Aware has been tackling depression across Northern Ireland since 1996, and increasing numbers of people are accessing their services as the stigma surrounding depression lifts and outreach initiatives bear fruit. There are currently 23 support groups throughout the Province.
She revealed: “Official statistics show there has been a 3.1 per cent increase over the last five years in people being diagnosed with depression. In the Northern Trust area, 12.6 per cent of people were diagnosed as having depression by their GP. That’s the joint second highest rate in Northern Ireland behind the South Eastern Trust. we have delivered 297 courses in that area in the last three years.”
Significantly, the organisation has experienced an increasing number of men seeking out their services. According to a review of approximately 60 per cent of Aware’s support groups, 73 per cent of attendees were male, with 27 per cent female.
Michelle says that the legacy of the Troubles, unemployment and recession-related stress are all factors which could be aggravating the problem in the local area. She continued: “There’s no denying the impact of the conflict coming out of the Troubles. A lot of people are only now finding the courage to speak out about what happened 20 or 30 years ago. Also, unemployment is high and people are under pressure to support their families, put dinner on the table and pay bills. The recession has had its part to play with people not being able to provide for their family. This causes stress and can be linked to depression.”
Aware Defeat Depression works with other charities such as Lighthouse and PIPS, and can signpost users to the most appropriate group to treat their condition.
Michelle advises anyone who believes they are experiencing depression to take action: “If you are experiencing a low mood for longer than two weeks, visit your GP. Symptoms include an unusually sad mood that won’t go away, losing interest or enjoyment in things, tiredness and lacking energy, difficulty in concentrating and lifestyle changes .
Contact Aware Defeat Depression’s helpline on 0845202961 or visit http://www.aware-ni.org/