Cycle Against Suicide Comes to North Belfast

Belfast Boys Model School
9.30am Wednesday 26 April 2017
Cycle Against Suicide with over 300 cyclists will be arriving in North Belfast on Wednesday 26 April 2017 with a special event in the Boys Model with the message “It’s OK not to feel OK; and it’s absolutely OK to ask for help”.

Each year Cycle Against Suicide and a peloton of over 300 cyclists all dressed in orange ride around Ireland to raise awareness of the considerable help and supports that are available for anyone battling depression, self harm, at risk of suicide or those bereaved by suicide.

A feature of their journey are special Anchor School Events. This year in Belfast, the Boys Model will be hosting this amazing and colourful event on Wednesday 26 April 2017 starting at 9.30am. This will include 100 strong school choir, presentations, videos, celebrity speakers, entertainment and an exhibition of local mental health services.

Colm Hayes CEO of Cycle Against Suicide said, ‘We are so excited to be coming to Belfast as part of our cycle around Ireland to raise awareness of mental health issues and even more excited to be coming to the Boys Model School in North Belfast to an amazing mental health event bringing together eleven schools from the local community, it will be brilliant’

Their visit to Belfast is being hosted by a range of schools and community groups and Jo Murphy, Director for Lighthouse said, ‘This wonderful event will showcase the talent and skills of our young people in North Belfast and also an opportunity to show we care and support each other.’

Alan Todd, Principal of the Boys Model who are holding the event underlined the importance of positive mental health messages, ‘We are well aware of the issues facing young people today and this event underlines that feeling not ok is not unusual, it’s something we all feel from time to time and there is always a positive way forward. This event is a tremendous opportunity to get that positive message across’.

This event will be very much a positive celebration and also an opportunity to show we care and support each other.


Volunteer now Celebration Event

On Tuesday the 4th of November we attended an event in the City Hall run by “Volunteer Now” to celebrate Befriending week. The event was set up in order to give credit to the different organisations which offer different types of befriending services and to acknowledge the benefits of these to their service users. There were a number of organisations present and each organisation received four invites with places for two representatives and two volunteers, this was a great privilege and opportunity for us to attend and see the big difference that Befriending is making all over Northern Ireland.

There was a String Quartet to open the morning which was a group of boys from St Malachys Boys School, The Lord Mayor of Belfast was also present and gave a few words about the event and also about Befriending itself and the benefits of it among the community. Wendy Osborne the chief executive of Volunteer Now spoke about befriending and how it effects the everyday lives of different people and the positive impact on both the befriender and the service user. Wendy focused on one certain quote that she had heard from a service user “the warmth of someone who cares” this statement impacted a lot on myself and the others that attended with me as we realised just how much “caring” can impact a persons life.

There were a number of guest speakers two of which were service users, one lady had her guide dog with her as she got up to speak she spoke about her Befriender from Belfast Central Mission in such a warm and caring way you could really see just how much of a positive impact Befriending had made on her everyday life. Listening to the different service users  speak about their lives and different experiences gave us from Lighthouse a great insight and hope that we too could make such a positive impact on a persons life with our Befriending Project. untitled

Throughout the morning I could see just how hard the different organisations have been working in order to keep recruiting volunteers and also to be able to offer the best service possible to their service users. It was also lovely to see the Befrienders efforts and work being acknowledged and rewarded in such a positive way, a few of the other organisations that attended were Volunteer now, Stroke Association, Action on Hearing Loss, Action Ability Belfast, Mindwise and Deafblind NI.

The event in City Hall was a great opportunity for the different organisations to come together in order to celebrate Befriending week in Belfast, it as also a great way for us to obverse and learn the different ways befriending can help a person and become more aware of the different services available in Belfast and Northern Ireland to maybe signpost these or our own service to others who could benefit from these in the future.

  • Volunteer Befriending Queens Univerisity Events

Volunteer Befriending Queens Univerisity Events

10698496_360167640799267_6227989556404199229_nLast Week we attended a volunteering opportunity at Queens University Students union which allowed many different organisations to come and interact with students about their different volunteering opportunities. We were among many other well known organisations who were also there to raise awareness and try and recruit volunteers for  of their different schemes and projects available to the community.

As the students came in they made their way around the hall and spent two minutes with each organisations stand. The idea was for us as representatives to give as much information about our volunteer befriending as we could in two minutes along with giving out our flyers which contain our contact details for anyone interested in applying to volunteer with ourselves.

As we are students ourselves we thought this would be a great opportunity to interact with other people our own age as we would find it easy to communicate the importance of our Befriending Project. In speaking to the different students we found that many people showed a keen interest in our service and also in possibly volunteering for Lighthouse.  We were able to easily get across the aims of our project and also the benefits of our Volunteer Befriending to both service users and Befrienders themselves.

After the volunteer speed dating has finished we realized that many of the students that attended were on a similar wavelength to ourselves and therefore that this was  a very positive and rewarding experience for ourselves. We hope to attend more opportunities like this one to continue sprea ding the awareness and benefits of our project and hopefully gaining many friendly and motivated volunteers to join our team.



On Monday afternoon we also attended a pop up stand event in Queens University which took place in the Mc Clay Library, this was also another opportunity to raise awareness of Befriending. There were many other organisations and charities also taking part in this event in order to attract as many students as possible.

The Library was very busy and had quite a good response to the volunteers event there was a great interest among the students in volunteering and many approached the stands to find out more information about our volunteering opportunities. This event also gave us another chance to communicate and speak to people face to face and give them more insight into the work we are doing.

Attending these kinds of events have been very positive and successful for us in trying to promote and raise awareness for our Befriending project, it has allowed us to reach out to a certain sector of the public in a very friendly and fun way and this has proven  to attract the attention of many possible volunteers to our Befriending scheme.

To follow all our opportunities and events we attend for Befriending have a look at our Facebook Page

  • Befriending Volunteers recruiting at Freshers Fayre

Befriending Volunteers recruiting at Freshers Fayre

10710638_369520186530679_7761843882986326975_nOn the 25th September we attended the University of Ulster Jordanstown Freshers Fayre and on the 29th September we then attended the University of Ulster Belfast Campus. Both events were very successful as we had a large number of students who were very interested in becoming a Befriender Volunteer with Lighthouse.

We provided the students with flyers containing information on the roles of a Befriender along with a Lighthouse wrist band, Lighthouse badge and a cupcake. After chatting with the students giving them information on what their job role would be and if they were still interested we give them an application form to complete and return either that day to us or to bring home complete and then return to the Lighthouse.

The purpose of recruiting at the Freshers Fayre was to try and get as many volunteers as we could and to raise awareness of the Befriending project and why it is an important cause. We felt by choosing the Freshers Fayre as a way of recruiting it would target a younger audience and raise awareness to the students of how common suicidal idealization, isolation and depression is in society today.

To view more pictures of the Freshers Fayre have a look on our Facebook Page for all our updates about Befriending with us



In This Together: A Fundraiser’s Story & The ‘Aisling’ Exhibition

When I asked one of our fundraisers, Oonagh Hurley, to say a few words about why she and her friend Beverley decided to fundraise for Lighthouse, I was not expecting such an open and honest account of her experiences.  She described her friend Nuala as “beautiful inside and out [someone who] brightened every room she walked into and became friends with everyone she met.” When Nuala took her own life on 17th April 2014, one week before her thirty–fifth birthday it left Oonagh, and many others privileged to know her, devastated.  “Everyone knew her as the life and soul of the party and loved her for it.  What they didn’t know what that there were demons in her head that haunted her and wouldn’t let her escape.  Near the end no one really saw Nuala anymore and if she made plans she always cancelled.”ATT00003

Oonagh continued by speaking about how she has coped in the aftermath of the loss of her friend.  “The big thing I have realised in these last few months is the different ways people deal with grief. None of them are better or worse but my way is to try and turn a negative into a positive; I wanted to do something that would make Nuala proud and honour her memory. I also wanted to try, in some way, to help prevent other people from feeling the pain and helpless frustration I have felt. This was when I decided I was going to raise money for Lighthouse.” Oonagh and her friend Beverley spoke about an idea to participate in a tandem skydive and to host a pub quiz.  Beverley, having also lost her friend Michael to suicide some years ago, agreed that she would like to honour her friend Michael by raising funds for suicide prevention.  The pub quiz at the Errigle was a great success.  I attended myself and was moved by the passion and commitment both girls spoke with.  It was clear to all that they had invested a lot of themselves into the events. The Skydive, after an ominous beginning, was also a great success.  Oonagh remarked how:

<img class="size-medium wp-image-2448 alignleft" alt="20140920_084030" src="×225.jpg" width="300" height="225" srcset="http://www free online project management×225.jpg 300w, 640w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” /> “all the love and support  really spurred Beverley and I on to do our tandem skydive. At one point in the day the plane was grounded and no jumps happening because of the strong wind. Thankfully the wind dropped and around 3.30pm on the 20th September Beverley and I jumped 13,000 feet from a plane. The views and the experience were incredible…really just indescribable, and I think you can see from the pictures the sheer joy and pride in our faces. It made the panic and nerves beforehand worthwhile. We still can’t really believe we did it!”

In total the girls raised £2037.50 (excluding gift aid).  Everyone at Lighthouse would like to thank the girls for their fundraising endeavours but also for sharing their story with us.  The importance of camaraderie is highlighted by their teamwork and is something that is also reflected some of the group work which takes place at Lighthouse.  One such group is the Men’s Photography Group which hosted their exhibition ‘Aisling’ on Monday 13th October.

The importance of creativity, expression and friendship is not something that should be underestimated.  Artistic projects such as photography can help engage the mind and permit creativity, but can also allow opportunity to speak with likeminded people and to express yourself in alternative ways when words don’t seem to be coming.  The importance of creative and valued activity to mental health is well documented and we would like to thank all of the men involved in the exhibition and the event facilitator, Kelly Morris, for making ‘Aisling’ such a success.


“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”


– Aristotle

  • Volunteer Befriending

Volunteer Befriending

10511094_361432117339486_4798559735838616128_nHello everyone and thank you for taking the time to read our blog on volunteer befriending. In this first blog we would just like to take time to firstly explain what befriending is and the type of work that is involved in this role. Our volunteer befrienders are able to offer friendship and support and form a positive one-to-one relationship with vulnerable adults or young people who may be experiencing difficulties in their lives. We have currently been putting all our efforts into recruiting as many volunteers as we can to get the befriending scheme up and running as soon as possible.

We understand that many people go through stages of difficulty in their lives and sometimes just having someone to talk to or spend some time with can help us in those situations, this is why we believe our volunteer befriending will be of great help to people within the community. As always their are certain key responsibilities  that come with the role of a volunteer befriender, we want our befriending scheme to be fun and enjoyable for both the volunteers and the person in need by engaging in activities which are mutually agreed upon. We aim for our volunteers to develop respectful and understanding relationships with clients as this is a very important factor within befriending. All volunteers that apply for volunteer befriending will be asked to attend befriending training in order to better prepare them for the role of a befriender, different situations they may encounter and how to deal with these.

We have attached a link to our Facebook page were you can access our application form and also see our posts about Befriending and what we are up to.

Photography event

‘Aisling’ – A Lighthouse Men’s Photographic Retrospective

Photography eventOur Men’s Photography group have been working hard on their upcoming exhibition.

‘Aisling’ (dream, vision, daydream) takes place at the Duncairn Centre for Culture & Arts on Monday 13th October 7PM – 9PM.

The photography group is an excellent opportunity to explore creative outlets while meeting regularly with individuals who have also been affected by suicide.  The men have done an excellent job of exploring their communities via visual arts and have built up a strong camaraderie in the process.

Everyone is invited to the exhibition.  We hope you can make it!


A World Connected

10614323_580953922015836_8663145230754807930_nHello everyone and thank you for taking the time to read what we hope will be a regular blog detailing recent events in Lighthouse.  September is usually a busy month for us.  In addition to supporting those bereaved by suicide or those in crisis we also host our annual World Suicide Prevention Day event. To those who are unfamiliar with World Suicide Prevention Day (or WSPD) the day falls each year on 10th September and community organisations would usually plan events scheduled to take place in the week leading up to this date.   When discussing ideas for our event we found ourselves committed to the idea that we should promote positive mental health but also inclusivity and accessibility.  For this reason we decided that it was important for our event to be multicultural so that we could come together to celebrate the rich diversity found within our community.  Suicide affects us all but notably a feeling of isolation can surround those who are considered ‘minorities’ in the community in which they reside.  We believe it is important to let the community know that irrespective of race, religion or sexual orientation there is support to be found.  Connections are important and if we are to tackle suicide together we must promote a message of tolerance and respect.

In addition to WSPD individuals were kind enough to hold fundraising events for Lighthouse.  Oonagh and Beverley hosted a very successful quiz at the Errigle and the family of Harry McVeigh hosted A Night to Remember with all proceeds being donated to Lighthouse.  In addition Joan Douglas and her team have been doing a fantastic job of fundraising for their event The Extra Mile In Jim’s Footsteps in memory of Jim Bell.  The family commented on this endeavour on their just giving page remarking that Jim’s “life was well lived and his death a loss to many. We hope, in his memory, to raise funds to provide education and counselling for those who find themselves in his situation.  Maybe we can make these people see that they are precious no matter how low they feel.”  The link to Jim’s page can be found at the bottom of this post for those interested in contributing.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has gone above and beyond for Lighthouse with their fundraising pursuits.

Lastly we would like to welcome some new faces to Lighthouse.  Seanna and Jillian are both with us on placement from the University of Ulster and will be concentrating on befriending while Zanne has recently joined us as our new family support worker. Welcome aboard!

3 ways to improve your mental health

- By Lighthouse

3 ways to improve your mental health

3 ways to improve your mental health

Mental health is similar to physical health because both require maintainance. This blog post looks at three ways to improve your mental health.

  1. Listen to your favourite music
  2. Take regular exercise, for example, walking, running, swimming or by joining a gym
  3. Eat more wholefoods

The key to good mental health is having a balance. So listening to music for a while, then taking a 30 minute walk followed by a healthy dinner will help to improve your mental health.