North West Migrants Forum

‘There is always hope and there is always help’

Main picture: Nurse and Unison representative Beverly Simpson has organised a conference around migrant workers and mental health. The event takes place in Derry this Monday.

A unique conference taking place in Derry’s Guildhall this Monday will encourage migrant workers to open up about any mental health struggles they might be going through.

‘Black and Migrant Workers Mental Health: Removing the Stigma’ is being organised by Guyanese-born nurse and Unison representative Beverly Simpson.

Beverly, who lives and works in Derry, has organised Monday’s event to help break down the taboos that still exist around mental health.

The conference is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and was put together through personal experience on Beverly’s part. She sought help in 2012 for issues she was dealing with.

It was a referral to Derry’s Well Women Centre that put her on the road to recovery.

“I said that if it could be done for me then it could be done for others. There is too much stigma around mental health, for example when someone has anxiety, depression or other mental health illness they are afraid of things like losing their job and having no recourse to public funds. They suffer in silence,” she told BBC Radio Foyle.

Beverly said that cultural differences also play a role in the reluctance among black and migrant workers to reach out for help.

“It is like there is a taboo, that if you suffer from mental health or anxiety you are not whole. Culturally that needs to be addressed. Fortunately my boss gave me time off every week to go for counselling but that is a concern for people – will I get the time off? Counselling helped me but it also helped my children and my community. But that is what we need to address, the stigma that still exists there.”

The event will take place in Derry’s Guildhall from 11am to 2pm. Photo source: Wikipedia

During her darkest period Beverly went without sleep for 14 days straight. But because she had no access to public funds, she kept going to the point where she felt she was going to collapse.

Now back at work, an active volunteer with the North West Migrants Forum as well as being a busy mum and grandmother, Beverly says she wants others to realise there is “always hope and there is always help”.

“If everyone reaches behind and helps another person then together we can all climb the ladder. It doesn’t have to be perfect and every day is another day, maybe today will be a good mental health day but tomorrow a bad day. It is all about accepting what it is and working from there.”

As to what she hopes Monday’s conference will achieve, she says it is about creating a space where people feel comfortable talking about their mental wellbeing.

“People need to realise there is nothing wrong with poor mental health, you are still you. It’s an illness and you move on from it.”

‘Black and Migrant Workers Mental Health: Removing the Stigma’ takes place in the Guildhall on Monday, October 9 from 11am to 2pm. It is sponsored by Derry City and Strabane District Council Mayor Patricia Logue and the keynote speaker will be mental health champion Siobhán O’Neill.

To register scan the QR code below or you click here: Black and Migrant Workers’ mental health: removing the stigma Tickets, Mon 9 Oct 2023 at 11:00 | Eventbrite