Look After Your Mental Health

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Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride, has emphasised the importance of looking after your mental health.

Speaking today at a Royal College of Psychiatrists' event for post-primary schoolchildren to raise awareness of mental health issues, Dr McBride said: "We need to learn to look after our mental health in the same manner as we do our physical health. The issue is one of the minister's, the department's, and my top priorities.

"Attitudes to mental health have to change, and it is very important that schools take time out to talk about mental health.

"Unfortunately there has been a long standing culture in Northern Ireland where people, especially young people, do not feel comfortable with opening up and discussing their mental health

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"This is, in part, perhaps due to the stigma that is attached to the issue. We still have a long way to go before society has an open, mature and constructive attitude to mental health. Mental health illness can affect any of us, at any time and it is nothing to be ashamed of."

He added: "We must also recognise the link between alcohol misuse and poor mental health. Alcohol is a very powerful drug which has immediate, long-term and long-lasting effects on the body.

"It is important that young people know the facts about alcohol, about the real harm it does and about its consequences. The earlier you start drinking, the more likely the harm will be long-lasting. Increased alcohol consumption can affect relationships and contribute to depression."

Dr McBride concluded: "The minister and department will be increasingly focused on improving people's mental health and well-being rather than just treating mental health problems when they occur. The aim is to help people become better able to cope with the difficult challenges that we face throughout the various stages of our lives.

"Where people do develop problems, they should be encouraged to seek help at as early a stage as possible. Dealing with problems early on helps to stop them from developing into something more serious.

"Families, friends, communities, schools and workplaces all have a role in protecting and caring for our mental health. When we all work together we can make a real difference."

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