How you can help those with mental health issues this Christmas

A series of training programmes run by Washington Mind aims to give people the confidence they need to support those experiencing mental health issues.

Tuesday, 13th December 2016, 5:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 1:06 pm
Washington Mind health champion Elaine Allen.
Washington Mind health champion Elaine Allen.

1 in 4 Mental Health Awareness Training is just one of a number of courses offered by the charity to help people support someone they know who may be experiencing a difficult time in their lives.

The programme aims to explore mental health, anxiety, depression and psychosis in a bid to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

With Christmas only weeks away and the heightened stresses and pressures surrounding this time of year, whether we are worrying about how we are going to pay for it all, or how we can maintain a wonderful festive feast, Mind says this could be the time when people, in particular those suffering from a mental health issue, need support more than ever.

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According to research by Mind, one in four people will experience a mental health issue, while for young people it is one in 10.

Kathy McKenna, from Washington Mind said: “For too long a mental health issue such as depression and anxiety have been viewed as selfish behaviour, self-indulgent or a sign of weakness.

“People with mental health problems, are often left to feel worthless, useless and can become isolated from friends and family.

“That is why an understanding how life events and occasions can affect mood are really important if we are to take care of ourselves and our families and friends.

“Understanding mental health and mental ill health can make a massive difference in someone’s life, because the way we act and respond to people with a mental health issue can indeed be life changing - your response can make the difference.

“Our mission is to work in partnership with our community to promote recovery and improve mental health wellbeing.”

Other courses include Mental Health First Aid, Understanding Self-harm and Listening skills, young people’s mental health awareness, understanding self-harm and steps to build resilience.

Kathy added: “Understanding how life events and occasions can affect mood are really important if we are to take care of ourselves and our families and friends.

“Washington Mind develop and deliver training to increase understanding of what mental health is, what to look out for if someone is struggling, how we can build out resilience and how to support someone who may need out support.

“Our training has a very important message “that is ok to ask for help.”

Along with the training offered by Washington Mind, a range of services have come together to run the Health Champions programme, funded by Sunderland City Council.

The training programme is free, for those 16 and over who live, work and volunteer in the city. To date, there are currently 657 Health Champions in Sunderland.

The course looks at five areas, including: understanding health improvement, alcohol and novel psychoactive substances, tobacco brief intervention, understanding emotional health and resilience, and health money, healthy you.

The training lasts three days and can be completed in any order and at a person’s own pace. But to become a fully trained health champion all five modules need to be completed within 12 months.

Health Champion, Elaine Allen, said: “As a counsellor with Washington Mind I am privileged to help and hopefully makes a difference to the many people who come to us seeking support for mental and emotional distress.

“The Health Champions Training has widened my knowledge and provided me with extra ‘tools’ and strategies, particularly in the areas of addictions and personal finances.

“As a result, I have added confidence to educate and guide people in counselling (as well as family and friends) with up to date information about healthy lifestyles and the benefit to good Mental Health and Well-being.

“I believe it facilitates a holistic approach to the care and support we offer and that people are more able to make informed choices and regain some control in their lives.”

For information on the health trainers programme visit

For details on how you can help to end the stigma around mental health visit or for information on training courses visit

Our series of articles over the next two weeks aim to cover the 12 days leading up to Christmas, which can be a tough time for some.

Each day, with the help of Washington Mind, we will be focusing on a different topic all about mental health and wellbeing as well as inviting you to carry out a small act of kindness.

The campaign aims to encourage people to reach out and show those who are struggling, that there can be light at the end of the tunnel.

Today the charity is calling on people to spend time listening (really listening) to someone , to give them your time and your attention.

Helpline numbers:

Washington MIND:


Call: 417 8043 or Text: 07507 330 995

Drop in: The Life House, Grasmere Terrace, Columbia, Washington.

The Samaritans:

Call: 116 123