On World Mental Health Day (Thursday 10th October), local charity Extern and Ulster Rugby have teamed up to announce details of an innovative new Halloween campaign to help raise awareness of mental health issues.

 Entitled ‘Drop the Mask’, the campaign is urging staff and teams in workplaces across Northern Ireland to come to work in fancy dress, and by doing so, show support for people living with mental health issues, many of whom feel they have to mask their true feelings. Community groups, schools and other organisations are also welcome to take part, and participants can consider making a donation to help support Extern’s vital mental health services.

Anyone wanting to get their workplace, school or community group involved can sign up for a free Drop the Mask fundraising kit at www.extern.org/Mask.

The official Drop the Mask day is on Friday 25th October to coincide with Ulster Rugby’s home game against Cardiff Blues, but Extern have said people can choose any day around Halloween which suits their workplace.

Speaking about the campaign, Charlie Mack, CEO of Extern, said: “As well as raising much-needed funds for Extern’s life-saving mental health services, our Drop the Mask campaign offers workplaces a fantastic opportunity to have fun as a staff team, while opening up the conversation about mental health with colleagues in a positive way. Importantly, it also allows business leaders to signal their support in a very visual and tangible way for colleagues who may be currently experiencing mental health issues, many of whom may feel unable to seek help.

“We are delighted to have the support of Ulster Rugby in this important campaign and we hope that clubs, streets, and towns will get involved, creating a very powerful wave of empathy and awareness raising right across Northern Ireland about this issue. Too many people are afraid to seek help for mental health issues in Northern Ireland or don’t know how to. This Halloween, please sign up for Drop the Mask and help us change that.”

Ulster Rugby’s CEO, Jonny Petrie, added: “Through our charity partnership, both Ulster Rugby and Extern are hugely ambitious about being able to make a real difference for people living with mental health issues. Drop the Mask is a positive and fun way for people to get involved, raise awareness, and help to make that kind of difference. I’m very proud to see our players, Craig Gilroy, Marty Moore and Sean Reidy on the billboards to promote this campaign, and I would encourage the rest of the Ulster Rugby community to get behind this initiative and help us to make it a success."

Further information on the Drop the Mask campaign is available at www/extern.org/mask or anyone interested in finding out more about the campaign can telephone Lisa McElroy, Extern, at 028 90 840 555.