HIV and Mental Health in Northern Ireland

Today is World Mental Health Day, a day to reflect on how mental health awareness has changed over the years consider what more we can all do, as a society for those who live with mental health issues.

According to statistics, around 20% of the Northern Ireland population have or have had a mental health problem in their lives, and we have a 25% higher prevalence of mental health issues compared to the rest of the UK. While there has been some progress in investment in mental health services, more needs to be done.

We know that when compared to the general population, people living with HIV are twice as likely to experience poor mental health. A HIV diagnosis can very often lead to anxiety and depression and in extreme circumstances issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

The unique stigma that is still associated with HIV often means that people become isolated feeling that they can’t share their diagnosis with family, friends and co-workers and this of course only exacerbates the problem.

A HIV diagnosis will affect everyone in different ways and so at Positive Life we provide a wide range of services, working in a person-centred way to support anyone living or affected by with HIV. In the 2018-2019 period we provided 2,694 contacts, providing emotional and psychological support through our befriending, peer, counselling and one-to-one support work. We provide a safe non-judgemental space for people to come and talk through their issues.

On this World Mental Health Day our message is simple, we are here for you. If we can’t help, we’ll know someone who can.