Each day during Christmas, Extern will be sharing words of comfort for those facing difficulties at what can often be a stressful or lonely time, through a series of advice leaflets which will be available on its social media platforms and website at www.extern.org.

From overcoming family feuds and conflict to eating well and gratitude, Extern will be publishing a fresh topic every day during the 12 days of Christmas, to help people look after their wellbeing and manage challenging situations over the holiday period.

The first leaflet, on the subject of Hope, will be shared via Extern’s social media channels on Christmas Day, and will be followed on Boxing Day with a leaflet based around the idea of forgiveness, and overcoming conflicts with family and friends.

Leaflets will then be shared daily for the rest of Christmas week and over the New Year, until January 5th, when they will be centred on motivational messages such as gratitude and practicing mindfulness.

The leaflets – which are also available online at https://www.extern.org/looking-after-your-mental-health-factsheets - have been specially created by Extern’s Communities in Transition project, which works collaboratively with existing community based projects to deliver a Health & Well-Being project across Larne and Carrickfergus, and the Greater Shankill in Belfast. The project is funded by The Executive Office & managed by Co-operation Ireland.

Linsey Farrell, Director of Urban Villages and Communities in Transition, said: “The Executive Office is delighted to be supporting this initiative. It is so important that people do not feel isolated and lonely in what has been a very difficult year for us all.

She added: “In every locality, the health and wellbeing of individuals is paramount. This project reflects the Executive Office’s commitment to supporting local communities to identify local issues and find solutions that best meet the particular needs in local areas.”

Project Manager Sharon Smith, said: “While the TV adverts often portray Christmas as a happy time for everyone, sadly for many people it is also a time during which the reality of the challenges they are experiencing, such as poor mental health, feeling lonely, or trying to manage problematic drug or alcohol use, is thrown into sharp relief.

“This year, there is the added sadness of not being able to share the day with loved ones for many people due to the current pandemic, while for some there is pressure from having already spent a great deal of time in the company of others this year, which can lead to conflicts and resentment.

“These colourful and easy to read factsheets offer practical advice and useful information on how to cope with situations such as these which are now a reality for many people, as well as words of comfort and ideas for finding positive solutions to challenges in your life.

“We hope that people will find them a valuable resource, and would urge anyone who needs support to contact any of our wide range of projects, details of which are available on Extern’s website.”

For further details on Extern’s range of mental health and well-being services, please visit www.extern.org. For latest updates on our services, and advice on mental health, you can also follow our social media channels by searching for @externcharity.

For details on the work of The Executive Office and Cooperation Ireland, please follow:

Twitter - @ExecOfficeNI @cooperationirl

Facebook - @CooperationIreland

Instagram - @cooperationireland

As an alternative to the traditional Secret Santa gift-giving, this year Extern is also asking the public to help the charity bring the gift of hope to people they support by sponsoring a gift on their Tree of Hope.

Just €10/£10 will buy a gift on the tree at www.extern.org/treeofhope, where visitors can complete a gift donation form. If the wish, they can then leave a personal message so friends/ colleagues know they have supported Extern in lieu of giving a gift this year. They will also be able to share their donation with their networks via the social media links they will receive once their donation is complete.

Extern is also one of the chosen partners this year for Fir Tree NI, the Christmas tree delivery experts. Every tree sold will generate a minimum £5 donation to Extern, and can be purchased by visiting www.firtreeni.co.uk.