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Earlier this year, I embarked on a journey called the 10 Communities programme  – a flagship commitment of Plan A 2025. Our aim is to trial a range of locally tailored actions across ten communities to help tackle the issues that matter the most – such as mental health and wellbeing, unemployment, loneliness and poverty – with a view to roll out the programme to 1,000 locations by 2025.

In Derry~Londonderry, we identified mental health as a prevalent issue in our community. In 2016 alone, a staggering 297 people lost their lives to suicide in Northern Ireland. What’s more, Derry~Londonderry has statistically higher levels of mental health problems than the national average.

As part of our 10 Communities project in Northern Ireland, we began working with AWARE NI at the beginning of this year, a local charity that helps tackle depression through an established network of support groups. To date, we have organised a staff engagement night to raise awareness of the incredible services AWARE NI provides to the local community and arranged monthly pop-ups to engage our customers on mental health.

To show our support for those suffering from mental illness, we recently supported AWARE’s 5k Mood Walk which took place on 9th September - the day before 'World Suicide Prevention Day'. We helped organise and promote the event through our network of customers and colleagues to make this the biggest Mood Walk to date. Our colleagues and customers helped fundraise through sponsorship, raising over £2,000 to help AWARE NI educate and support those suffering with mental illnesses. We had over 100 residents of our community attend the walk, despite the adverse weather conditions that morning. It thankfully stayed dry for the entire walk, and everyone was able to join in on a fun warm up and cool down provided by a local gym member. Medals were awarded for all those who took part and light refreshments were provided by M&S to finish off.

We believe by working together with AWARE NI, we can play a key role in raising awareness of an extremely important cause and deliver a positive, lasting change to our local community.