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Belfast Mayor congratulates Mental Health First Aid Training graduates

Belfast Mayor congratulates Mental Health First Aid Training graduates


Staff and therapists working in a Belfast victims and survivors organisation were delighted to receive certificates from the Mayor of Belfast today (Friday November 1 2013).

The team from Bridge of Hope received their awards at a special reception hosted by Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir after they completed a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training course delivered by accredited trainers Irene Sherry and Philip McTaggart.

The MHFA training is aimed at a range of people who may come into contact with those experiencing mental health difficulties and crises.

The evidence-based training involves teaching participants how to recognise the symptoms of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and psychosis. In real life terms, such first aid would be given until professional help is available or until the crisis resolves.

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said: “I would like to congratulate everyone that has completed their Mental Health First Aid course. It is important that as many people as possible collect this vital qualification and are well equipped with the tools to help those living with mental illness. Individuals and families who may be going through a hard time need to know that there are people out there they can talk to.”

Philip McTaggart manager of PIPS Charity said heightening awareness round this issue was important.

“The more education, information and awareness we can provide can only help to make the community safer to live and where people can recognise the signs of a person in distress and offer help. The more people who can identity poor mental health issues the better, as the outcome in terms of recovery can be a lot smoother.”

Irene Sherry, Head of Victims Services at Ashton Community Trust, said at least one in five people experience mental health problems here but yet the stigma that still surrounds this can prevent people seeking help.

“Across the city of Belfast mental health is a significant issue and this is illustrated not least by high suicide levels and rates of people using anti depressants to cope with stress and anxiety.

“In North Belfast for example we know that poor levels of mental health are compounded further by socio-economic conditions and the legacy of the conflict.

“So we do feel that it is important to get this Mental Health First Aid training delivered at grassroots level for those staff and practitioners who are working with communities experiencing these difficulties.

“Bridge of Hope works with individuals to help them improve their mental health, and we can see how important it is for established codes of best practice to be used when crisis situations arise.

“Immediate help is not always available so we believe this training is a vital tool in the box for practitioners who may find themselves providing advice and comfort to a person who is in distress and needs to rely on constructive safe advice about next steps.”


Notes to Editors:

If you require further details about this press release please contact Irene Sherry, Head of Victims Services at Ashton Community Trust on 028 9074 6737 or email [email protected]

Bridge of Hope is a programme of Ashton Community Trust, an award winning social enterprise and development trust. For more information about Bridge of Hope visit or Ashton visit

For more details about PIPS Charity visit or telephone 028 90805 850.


The two MHFA instructors Irene Sherry and Philip McTaggart of PIPS Charity became trainers after they completed a ‘Training for Trainers’ course delivered by the Public Health Agency in March 2012. See link below for further details:


The MHFA Training Programme for NI has been adapted from the original MHFA programme established in Australia by Betty Kitchener and Anthony Jorm.


The aims of MHFA are to:


  • Preserve life where a person may be a danger to themselves or others;
  • Provide help to prevent the mental health problem becoming more serious;
  • Promote the recovery of good mental health;
  • Provide comfort to a person experiencing a mental health problem.


MHFA teaches participants:

  • How to recognise the symptoms of mental health problems;
  • How to provide initial help;
  • How to go about guiding a person towards appropriate professional help.

If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. This is a confidential service, where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow up with other support if necessary. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also access the Lifeline website at

 For further information on the range of services available in your locality visit



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