A Zen-like state of tranquility permeated the corridors of power at City Hall this morning – as hundreds of people practised the power of Mindfulness.
More than 300 participants from all walks of life, many of whom were meditation novices, attended the event promoting positive mental health and wellbeing.
Hosted by Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, the free workshop was organised by the Belfast Strategic Partnership.
Belfast-born Ryushin Paul Haller demonstrated the practice of Mindfulness and explained how it can be a great coping mechanism for the stresses and worries of daily life.
The Lord Mayor said: “It’s important that as a society we look at ways of helping and supporting each other when things get tough. We have got better when it comes to talking about our feelings and emotions but the issue of mental health is something which can still be taboo.
“Depression and high levels of suicide in Belfast are well documented and require a response. This event is aimed at empowering people to help cope with the difficult things life throws at us – whether it is day to day stresses of work, relationships, parenting, grief or trauma.
“The great thing about this event is that everyone can benefit from this practice which is proven to help improve mental health and wellbeing”.
The event has been organised following a survey – carried out by Belfast Strategic Partnership – of more than 3,000 people, asking them to share their views on mental health issues to inform a 10 year ‘emotional resilience strategy’ for the city. The survey was in response to concerns about a rising number of suicides in the city.
More than a quarter of those who completed the questionnaire live in the some of the most deprived areas of Belfast. Findings from the study include:• More than a quarter (27%) of respondents said they had had treatment for depression/anxiety within the last year;
• Of those living in the top five most deprived areas, 36% said they had had treatment for depression/anxiety in the last 12 months;
• A higher percentage of those who identified themselves as gay/lesbian (42%) said they had had treatment for depressions compared to 27% of those who identified themselves as heterosexual;
• A reduction in anti-social behaviour (48%), better job opportunities (43%) and more activities for children (34%) were the top three issues cited as what people felt could improve their quality of life and well-being.
Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive of the Public Health Agency, said: “Tackling mental ill-health and reducing suicide are among the greatest challenges for our society. The Public Health Agency is dedicated to exploring new ways of working with the community to address these issues.
“We are delighted to support the Mindfulness event through the Belfast Strategic Partnership and will continue to work with Belfast City Council and others to develop innovative and effective ways in which we can improve the mental health and wellbeing of people across the city.”
Irene Sherry, a community representative on the Belfast Strategic Partnership and joint chair of a group looking at issues to do with mental health, added: “This is a great opportunity to highlight the issue of mental health and having someone like Paul Haller sharing his practice of Mindfulness at a free event is fantastic. I think this is something people will really benefit from.”