Life Skills Reduces Depression

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Before Aware’s Life Skills Programme, Eric Russell who featured in NewsFour in December 2012 was overweight and depressed. He saw no way out of his spiral until he heard of the Life Skills Programme.

“The first introduction booklet says ‘you’re not running a marathon’ and I put my hand up and said ‘actually I am’,” said Eric. “It gave me the belief that I was on the right track, I went away with a spring in my step. I lost 18 stone and am training for my third marathon.”

The Aware Life Skills Programme is a completely free educational programme delivered over the course of six weeks. It is based on principles of cognitive behavioural therapy, delivered with low intensity support or guidance via short, weekly, face to face group classes. Participants of the programme can learn how to cope with stress, enhance their confidence and learn practical life skills in order to deal with life more effectively. To date, 2,125 people have successfully completed the programme in Ireland.

Recently, a new study written by Chris Williams, a Professor of Psychosocial Psychiatry at the University of Glasgow, who has spearheaded Aware’s Life Skills Programme since 2012, found 59% of the participants who attended the 90-minute sessions in Scotland moved from moderate levels of depression to mild or none.

The study also found that the classes, conducted in a community setting, are “effective in terms of impact on mood” and offer people an alternative route to deal with mitigating mental issues.

“The longer that hour went on the more and more I kept thinking ‘this [programme] is amazing’,” said George Hook, a journalist, broadcaster and rugby pundit who was a master of ceremonies of sorts at the launch of the study and who has had his own struggles with depression in the past.

“I think people increasingly think there’s a pill for everything, so there’s a happy pill out there and there isn’t. Solving this problem is largely within yourself, it doesn’t go away and you learn to cope with that. I mean I’d be really tempted to sign on for this course.”

“Change is open to everybody,” said Ciaran Allen, one of the trainers on the Life Skills Programme. “What I was delivering started to impact on me and I realised maybe I could learn something new.” He soon learned how to play the ukulele. “I’ve met so many people who are closeted ukulele players.”

Pictured, from left to right, Joanne Doyle, George Hook, Sean Greensit, Dr Claire Hayes, Lisa McEvoy, Professor Chris Williams, and Michelle Mahon.

By Liam Cahill