A mental health group in North Belfast has launched its annual Winter Food Bank appeal, just days after it was granted charitable status.
Founder Caoimhin McNulty, 21, of Ardoyne, created the NI Mental Health Awareness Program himself in 2018.
For a long time he had wanted to work around mental health within his community after losing a close friend to suicide at just 14 years old.
In January 2020, Caoimhin registered a new group called the Mental Health Movement (MHM), an all-youth-led organization, one of the few in Northern Ireland.
In an area affected by the highest suicide mortality rates in Belfast, MHM also offers workshops on child and youth mental health in youth-based settings such as schools and youth clubs.
It was founded on the idea that young people are more likely to listen to other young people about mental health.
Caoimhin told Belfast Live: “MHM is a volunteer organization that no one receives a salary or expenses. And any money we get goes to running youth mental health workshops or right now for our winter appeal. We are also just guys – we drove with our older member who is 26″.
After the success of last year’s winter food bank appeal, MHM has started running the campaign again this year.
“We are raising money to create food baskets for two local organizations that are doing an amazing job – the North Belfast Community Food Bank and the Whitrock Family Centre,” Kawimhen said.
“The need for food banks is now at a historic level. They are already struggling to meet the demand they have, and this is expected to become even more challenging in the lead-up to Christmas.
“All money will be used to buy food and toys for local food banks.
“We were able to make 20 food baskets last year, as well as being able to provide the organizations we’ve helped with toys and bathroom sets. We hope to be able to do the same this year,” he added.
Last July, Belfast Mayor Cllr Kate Nicholl presented Caoimhin with Lord Mayor’s testimony for all of his mental health work.
Caoimhin and the rest of the team hope to eventually pass MHM to the other youngsters who will carry the torch and carry on with their work.
Earlier this week, the group announced that it had finally been registered as a charity in Northern Ireland.
“This is a huge milestone for our entire organization and team,” Kawimhen added.
“Acquiring charitable status has meant a lot to all of us. We hope it opens more doors for us and offers us more opportunities to help MHM grow and make an impact on the young people we work with.
“We are also working on trying to start a peer support group for young people in North Belfast in early 2022 if we get the funding. If we don’t get the funding we have plans to raise the money to start that
“There are many challenges ahead, but we are more than ready for them.
“We hope to build something great that we can pass on to other young people in the future.”
To find out more about the support available through the Mental Health Movement, click here or to donate to the Winter Appeal click here
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