Hope on the Horizon at AMH

Mickey Harkin of New Horizons with Michael Murie, Patricia Moore and Damian Bonner. (1007JB04)
Mickey Harkin of New Horizons with Michael Murie, Patricia Moore and Damian Bonner. (1007JB04)

Inspiring hope is the key aim at a Foyle New Horizons - a body which provides people with a helping hand to overcome mental health issues.

Through a vast array of activities, the Springtown based service focusses on providing its clients with a basis to rebuild the self-esteem and confidence they need to take on life’s challenges.

Jimmy Mller puts the finishing touches to some of his work at New Horizons.  (1007JB02)

Jimmy Mller puts the finishing touches to some of his work at New Horizons. (1007JB02)

For almost 20 years now, Action Mental Health (AMH) New Horizons has been helping clients recover from mental illness in the greater Derry area. The centre boosts personal development through vocational training, from crafts to IT, and the creation of career opportunities.

The man at the helm of the Derry operation of AMH is Service Manager Mickie Harkin. He’s devoted to ensuring that everything runs smoothly and to the utmost benefit of the 120 people currently availing of the service.

“The key aim of New Horizons is to give hope to people who are recovering from mental illness and life changing events. Because people always have to have hope, a belief that things will get better.”

He explains that hope can be inspired in clients bereft of positivity by giving them the tools to build confidence and self esteem.

“Clients are referred to us through the community mental health team for various programmes. We’re talking about people who have mental health issues ranging from stress, anxiety and depression to more serious conditions like bi-polar and schizophrenia.

“Courses are run for up to 30 months and clients are then given employability options.

“We work with the further education colleges but a huge part of what we do is working with local employers and voluntary groups who offer training placements.

“Without groups such as Chest, Heart and Stroke, St Vincent dePaul and the Foyle Hospice, large employers such as Sainsburys and smaller businesses such as KMC Tyres, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”

There are currently 120 clients at New Horizons in Springtown and a there is a waiting list for vacancies. On a guided tour of the extensive premises, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. There are several workshops, including a crafts department, an IT department, a catering department with a working kitchen and canteen to seat 45 persons, a fully equipped joinery workshop and a DIY department.

And the imaginative creations of the craft and wood occupation workshops are popular with the public, as Mr Harkin explains.

“We sell the bespoke items we make here and often people come and commission work. That gives clients a great sense of personal worth and enhanced self esteem.”

Whether it be finely crafted glass fiddles from the Crafts Department or made-to-order wishing wells or garden benches from the Wood Occupation Department, customers can be sure of three things - that painstaking workmanship went into the crafting of the products; that the money raised goes back into running the essential service; and that the creation and sale of the items aided the personal development of the clients at New Horizons.

Mr Harkin added: “Everything we do is person centred and the activities clients engage in are down to personal choice. But we’re keen to stress that the courses clients take here are only part of a package designed to help them on their road to recovery from mental health issues.

“For example a client may well take the catering course but it will be combined with maybe men’s health classes and stress management.

“Clients can earn qualifications such as NVQs but that’s only part of what we do here - everything is geared towards mental wellbeing.

“We trying to help people throught their mental illnesses and produce a product at the same time - it allows the clients to become engaged in work and boosts social interaction in the workshop, and all the time enhances their confidence and self esteem.”

All walks of life are catered for at New Horizons.

“We’ve had painters, joiners, reporters, students, doctors, nurses and even stay at home mums and dads - mental health issues don’t discriminate, they affect people from all walks of life, there are no barriers.”

AMH New Horizons is a registered charity which helps people to overcome the effects of mental ill health and in many cases return to work. It offers a range of recognised qualifications and provides training, personal development programmes and social and recreational activities. Foyle New Horizons is one of eight services in ten locations across Northern Ireland and increasingly delivers a variety of courses in community based venues. It is funded by the Western Health and Social Services Trust and the EU.