As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, the charity Extern has launched two simple new online self-help guides aimed at helping people to better manage their mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 runs from May 18-24, and this year’s theme is kindness. The new downloadable Extern guides contain a host of simple activities, worksheets and information on how to tackle and alleviate mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and intrusive negative thoughts and feelings, as well as tips on how to be kind to ourselves. The guides have been funded by The Executive Office part of a new Communities in Transition project run by Extern, and managed by Cooperation Ireland.

Extern are building on their existing health and well-being projects in the Shankill area, as well as introducing such services into the Carrickfergus and Larne areas. The projects will link with other community-based programmes, including Streetbeat Youth Services in the Shankill area. They will also raise awareness of nearby available services, train local people as community health champions and befrienders, and offer intervention to those impacted by drugs, alcohol and mental health.

The advice and tasks included in the guides are based on well-established practices and methods such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Exposure Hierarchy and Building Resilience, and have been compiled by Extern’s team of experienced and dedicated counsellors and practitioners.

The guides – which are available to download now from - also feature practical and easy-to-follow activities which can be completed alone or with help from others. These include:

  • A ‘Gratitude Journal’ and ‘Toolkit’
  • An ‘Isolation Bingo’ game
  • A checklist on recognising and managing symptoms of anxiety
  • Tips on coping with change
  • Ways to help yourself and your community

Extern, which is the official current mental health charity partner of Ulster Rugby, operates a number of projects across Northern Ireland offering advice and assistance with mental health issues. These range from drop-in and self-help programmes to acute crisis intervention services which respond to those facing self-harm and suicidal ideation.

Sharon Smith, Manager of Extern’s Reach Out community mental health project for Greater Belfast, said: “Over the course of the last few weeks, our frontline staff in Extern are seeing the major impact coronavirus and the lockdown is having on the mental health of many. Sadly, people are coping with the loss of a loved one, while others have been directly afflicted with the virus themselves.

“That’s why initiatives such as the Communities in Transition project are needed more than ever, and can play a direct and proactive role in responding to mental health issues within our communities. The services we are now able to offer through this project will make a huge difference to how people are able to cope with the difficulties and challenges they are facing.

“We are seeing increased levels of anxiety and stress about the future, as the economic impact has been huge for many people, particularly those facing financial difficulties due to loss of income or employment.

“The social isolation which has also been imposed upon us by the outbreak, and the need to socially distance, is also having a big impact on many people, particularly those who live alone or who cannot easily get out of the house for exercise or to buy essential provisions. For working parents too, having to balance their duties to their employers with home-schooling young children can also put huge pressure on their mental wellbeing.

“These colourful and helpful guides provide simple advice and coping mechanisms for people of all ages who may be facing anxiety or depression at this challenging time. The advice and tasks supplied are based on well-established practices and methods, and have been compiled by our team of experienced and dedicated counsellors and practitioners. We hope that it will be of great value to those who need help at this difficult time.”

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


Twitter - @ExecOfficeNI @cooperationirl

Facebook - @CooperationIreland

Instagram - @cooperationireland


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