More than £8 million in grants awarded to 30 organisations for mental health support schemes
MENTAL health grants of £8.7million have been awarded to 30 projects across Northern Ireland - with the scheme receiving more than 100 applications requiring over £33m.
Womens Aid in Armagh/Down, the Corrymeela Community, Kids Together west Belfast and the Bogside/Brandywell Health Forum in Derry are among the organisations to receive the Department of Health funding.
Drawn from a £10m pot aimed at improved mental health and emotional wellbeing, the projects will support a wide range of ages, from children to the elderly.
Counselling services, peer support networks, trauma support and initiatives to promote independence among vulnerable adults - such as Clare CIC in Belfast - are among the programmes.
Health Minister Robin Swann announced the allocation which he said was the first tranche of grants from a Mental Health Support Fund made available in response to the pandemic to support carers, cancer charities and mental health organisations.
The dedicated fund is being administered and managed by the Community Foundation NI.
Roisin Wood, chief executive of the foundation, said there had been "exponential interest" in the grants.
"Whilst we have announced funding to 30 projects, we could have multiplied this five-fold with 104 applications having been received requesting £33.5m," she said.
"This meant the foundation has had to be really stringent in our criteria so I appreciate that some organisations will be disappointed by today's announcement whilst many will be very happy.
"To those who have missed out, I would encourage them to continue to look at where the other funds, including small and medium grants which are already open, can provide support.
"We realise that alongside the launch of the recent Mental Health Strategy there is so much work to be done in this space, and so we know the projects chosen will make a significant difference to the communities they work in."
Mr Swann said the pay-outs were "initial grants".
He added: "It's undeniable that the pandemic, and the necessary restrictions, have had a negative impact on people's mental health and wellbeing. When I launched the Mental Health Support Fund earlier this year my aim was to equip and enable our local charity sector to continue to provide important and vital mental health services in our communities.
"These grants are only the first allocation from the £10m Fund and, alongside the 10 year Mental Health Strategy published at the end of June, will work to ensure that anyone who needs help receives the help they need."