Positive mental health

Mental health is a major issue in the Western World, currently none more so than in Northern Ireland where we are facing an epidemic of suicide. It also an issue that is of rising concern within the asylum seeker and refugee community within Northern Ireland. This is understandable due to the issues they had to face in their home countries where the had to flee for a range of reasons including war and persecution. The journey here is often perilous and very stressful only to enter into an asylum system that is seen as inhumane, degrading by many and the government openly implement implement policies of hostile environments. Some have described it as being in an open air prison and having a sentence with no end date. There are however – unbelievable as it may seem – people within the asylum system who despite all this are able to maintain positive mental health.

In the current crisis of mental health in Northern Ireland we feel that these people are untapped resources of gold and a great inspiration to others from all walks of life. So we wanted to tease out of them how despite everything that life has thrown at them they continue to maintain positive mental health. As well as consciously celebrating and recognising their ability to do so. We choose to do this through either then written word, audio or video. Then allow the participant to chose what medium suits them best and what information they want to share. Homeplus are currently undergoing this process now with a number of our service users. We will then meet with groups of teenagers from Quakers Cottage who live at interface areas in Belfast and female ex-prisoners from NIACRO to have a discussion on mental health and how the participants have been able to maintain positive mental health. At the end of the project we will upload some of the content from the participants to our website so it can be a resource for others who are facing challenges to their mental health.

According to the National Mental Health Association three of the characteristics of people with positive mental health are:

– They feel good about themselves

– They do not become overwhelmed by emotions, such as fear, anger, love, jealousy, guilt, or anxiety

– They have lasting and satisfying personal relationships


Our spoken word positive mental health project involved interviewing asylum seekers and refugees who are experiencing very difficult circumstances and have experienced serious trauma in their past, but are yet able to stay resilient, mentally strong and have a positive attitude on life. We uploaded some of these interviews here so that they can be as a resource and inspiration for others experiencing mental health problems. The project also honoured the strength and resilience of those who take part in the project. The participants then met with groups of teenagers from Quakers and NIACRO female ex-prisoners throughout the year and talked about their story, life and how they are able to maintain a healthy and positive mental attitude. They will also talk with other asylum seekers and refugees who have mental health problems in informal discussions about mental health and coping skills. This and the resource onlineĀ  forms a peer support and guidance for others experience mental health difficulties offering them tips and ways to improve their outlook and mental health. The project challenged the prejudice others have towards mental health and aimed to reduce racism and hate crime by helping people see that others from minority ethnic backgrounds are similar to themselves.

Some of the interviews are included below:

An asylum seeker from North Africa