When you first take a look at the statistics from the relationship support charity’s Relate NI survey, they’re startling.
Almost seven in ten people (68%) in Northern Ireland have felt a sense of hopelessness or hopelessness in the past week.
More than 60% (64%) of respondents said talking to people hurt them too much, while 80% felt they were sometimes unable to cope when things went wrong and 13% said that ‘they never had anyone to turn to for help when they needed it.
“We know from our experience of working with people at NI for 75 years that the past few years have been some of the most challenging,” said Stephen Maginn of Relate NI.
“Our therapeutic work shows us that the pandemic has placed our parents, our couples and our family relationships under significant pressures which are now worsening with the cost of living crisis.
“Nevertheless, that 68% of NI residents feel despair or hopelessness is a shocking statistic.”
The research was conducted to coincide with Relate NI’s launch of Project Golden Threads during Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs through May 15.
Relationships with self and others were addressed in the survey.
While 64% of people felt their relationship with their partner was pretty good or very good, people seemed to suffer in their relationship with themselves, which was the most common relationship people rated as bad, with nearly two people in ten (19%) of respondents identify their relationship with themselves as bad.
Respondents were more likely to have a bad relationship with a father (10%) than with a mother (7%) while 9% rated their relationship with their in-laws as fairly bad or very bad.
“The evidence now shows why good quality relationships matter,” Stephen says of how poor quality relationships can affect mental health.
“They can protect us from the effects of long-term health problems; aid in our recovery, and may even prevent disease in the first place.
“However, poor quality relationships can be a stressor for our mental well-being and external factors can lead to disagreements about how to prioritize time or money, for example, and this can cause unnecessary conflicts in our relationships.”
Five percent of respondents said they had a bad relationship with their children, but 55% had seen their parents fight or fought with their partner in front of their children.
“Parental conflicts can have a particular impact on children’s well-being when they are intense, frequent and poorly resolved,” says Stephen of Relate NI.
While nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents said they don’t know what a health relationship looks like, there was something positive to be taken from the overall results.
“While unhealthy relationships can be a stressor for poor health, developing healthy relationships can help improve our health and the good news from our research is that awareness of this is improving, with 75% people saying that resolving relationship issues was important to limit the negative impacts on mental health,” says Stephen.
“We understand there’s always a stigma to talking about relationships and that some people think ‘what happens behind closed doors’ should stay behind closed doors.
“We believe it is time for a cultural change in Northern Ireland and we intend to be at the heart of that change.”
Regular relationship maintenance is key to maintaining healthy relationships and mental fitness.
With that in mind, Relate NI has launched a new project called Golden Threads, offering a host of new self-help tools available for free on its website that can help improve your relationships.
“Some of the topics covered in these resources include effective communication, navigating unhealthy behaviors, relieving stress and how to argue better – because let’s face it, all relationships experience pressure and conflict, that’s the how we handle them when it happens that matters,” says Stéphane.
“If we do this effectively, we can nurture and strengthen the fundamental relationships that bring us joy and improve our mental and physical well-being.”
Although the majority of respondents in the charity’s survey recognize the important golden thread between relationships and mental health, only 47% said they would seek relationship support if their relationships were under stress. pressure.
“Family and friends can be an important support structure, and confiding in them can help bring you closer, but 60% said they would rather keep their relationship issues private from friends and family,” says Stephen.
“If you don’t feel like you can talk to your friends and family, it may be those relationships that are causing you distress, so it’s important to seek help elsewhere.
“Relate NI has expert relationship advisers on hand to help you in person and online across Northern Ireland and the self-help tools on our website can also be helpful in learning how to tackle issues. sensitive in your relationships.
“We know that many people wait until their relationships have fallen into crisis for help, in some cases living for years in relationship distress.
“It’s so important that people come forward earlier to limit the impact on their relationships, mental well-being and wider family units,” Stephen continues.
“Even if you feel like your relationships are strong, relationship counseling can be a
an effective intervention that can help you learn your partners’ preferred love languages or communicate more effectively with your parents or children, for example, and it can help you maintain those healthy relationships.
“The first step might be to run some of the Golden Threads activities on our website and see if that helps you develop coping strategies.
“If not, submit a website inquiry or call us to explore your options.
“If you are in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council area, we will also be running educational workshops as part of the Golden Threads project.”
People contact Relate NI for a variety of reasons.
“We work with all types of relationships, including individuals, couples, families, children and young people,” says Stephen.
“We have noticed that children in particular have been affected by the pandemic, but it does not matter if you are single, married, living together, separated, younger, older, separated parent, single parent, gay, bisexual, straight or transgender — we are here to support you!
For more information about Relate NI’s Golden Threads project and to access self-help tools, visit www.relateni.org/golden-threads. The Golden Threads program is funded by the Department of Health’s Mental Health Support Fund and administered by the Community Foundation Northern Ireland