Gambling in today’s society…

Gambling in today’s society is everywhere we look. It is no longer just high street bookmakers where you can go to place a bet. It is accessible at all times and is becoming a huge problem and ruining the lives of many. If you want to gamble you can do it at any time, which leads to huge financial problems for many.

Whether it is going to a bookies to place a bet, going into the pub for a pint and playing a fruit machine or playing cards with friends, you can gamble on anything and at times lose a substantial amount of money. Within our generation it is always a topic of conversation. You go into the bookies and it is almost like a social gathering spot, with many of your friends there placing bets and seeming to enjoy themselves, however gambling is a very silent killer for many. It knows no boundaries, and is getting worse constantly. Gambling is advertised and marketed for you to get the belief you will win money. You see many adverts saying place a £10 bet and get £30 in free bets online, this seems like an offer you can’t refuse. At the time, yes this is a good offer, however this gives a bookmaker access to you at all times. Now that you have an online account you can bet at any time, and in your eyes, win money at any time, however this is not the case, you are likely to lose a lot more than you win. The bookie is always going to be the winner.



So why is this such a problem and so popular?

Northern Ireland has the worst rate within the UK for problem gamblers. This statistic was recorded in 2016 by the charity CARE for Northern Ireland. Gambling is such an issue because it is everywhere we look, at times people are gambling without realising, and at all age groups. If you’re in the shop and buy a scratch card you are gambling, but wouldn’t consider it. An elderly woman going to the bingo a few nights a week would not truly believe they are gambling, but more socialising, this highlights to us how popular gambling is today, and how accessible it is. It literally ruins the lives of many. It is a problem which can be undetectable. You can keep it to yourself and lose everything. Friends, family, jobs, homes, everything. Unlike other addictions like drink and drugs, it is hard to know a gambling addict. They could be sitting quietly losing hundreds of pounds on their smart phones, without anyone knowing. This leads to severe depression and suicide if it gets bad enough.

It is very easy to become addicted to gambling. You could have an interest in soccer and one weekend do a soccer bet and win some money from your first bet, and then become hooked. You are constantly trying to replicate a buzz you once felt, and it will come to a stage where this is impossible. For a gambler, it will never be enough. There are many social events which involve gambling. For example, a staff do at the horse or dog racing. Events such as these can give you the taste for gambling and suddenly a problem you never believed would be associated with you, is now a real problem in your life.









It is an issue that is only getting worse and without some sort of intervention, it will continue to grow. It is constantly advertised and targeted to draw people in. There are constant television adverts which encourage you to gamble and constantly advertising promotions for new customer specials that seemingly can’t lose. The bookies are giving you “free money” to draw you in. We have seen many real-life examples of celebrities whose lives have been destroyed by gambling, from local GAA stars to millionaire soccer players. It will affect you at all times. It won’t matter whether you are a millionaire or have £10 to your name, you will gamble what is available and lose everything if you cannot control it. Unless there is something implemented by the government soon, it will continue to get worse, and continue to be the silent killer for many.

Colum Loughran is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter: @ColumLoughran


Image result for always keep fighting

Supernatural is a hugely successful TV, in its 13th season with a fandom that refers to itself as the SPN Family, this ‘family’ has created a unique support system for those suffering mental health issues. Jared Padalecki started a movement in 2015 called Always Keep Fighting, a t-shirt campaign that became a support network for fans. It is empowering for fans to hear their role models speak up about issues like this, admitting they struggle with this or just telling them that they aren’t alone. The way Supernatural actors Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki and Misha Collins has used their power and influence to create something that is inherently bigger than themselves is inspiring.

Image result for crisis support network your not alone spn
Jensen & Misha’s ‘You Are Not Alone’ campaign. In support of SPN Family Crisis Support System.

There is a lot to consider before launching any campaign and different things that need to be taken into consideration. The success of Jared’s PR campaign is inspiring. What started as a t-shirt campaign by one actor has led to the collaboration between three actors as Jared and his co-stars Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins set up their support platform for those suffering mental health issues, the Crisis Support Network.

“Why not try and harness this amazing power that the fans are accumulating and try to use it in a way that Misha has done with Random Acts?” – Jensen Ackles on creating the Crisis Support Network.

The massive support from their Supernatural fandom played a massive part in success of their various campaigns but so did their PR campaign. The success of any PR campaign lies in the planning and execution. Simple steps to successfully carry out a PR campaign:

1. Set out clear goals for what you want to achieve.
Taking the ‘Always Keep Fighting’ campaign, there are three clear goals to this. One, raise money for charities such as To Write Love On Her Arms, The Wounded Warrior Project and A.I.R. Attitudes In Reverse – Student Suicide Prevention – Mental Health. Two, to raise awareness of mental health issues that affect people such as depression, addiction, mental illness and suicidal thoughts. Lastly, the aim was to encourage people to speak out about their struggles.

2. Make a detailed and precise plan on how you want to achieve it.
How will you achieve your goal? The exact method of attaining the targets for ‘Always Keep Fighting’ is unclear. We know Jared took to social media to share with fans. Actors such as Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins and Stephen Amell, promoted the campaign on their sites.

3. Do intensive research on the aim of your campaign.
You need to know what your campaigning for to achieve your goals. Jared knew what he was talking about in his campaign as he suffers from anxiety and depression. Fans knew that this campaign was personal and something he felt passionate about advocating.

4. Monitor and tweak your campaign when necessary.
Allow for failure and have measures in place to ensure the success of the campaign. The ‘Always Keep Fighting’ campaign has been tweaked and relaunched over the years, mostly to include Jensen Ackles’ involvement

5. Choose your weapon. 
What will you use to promote your campaign? Jared used t-shirts, hoodies, hats and bags with 100% proceeds going to charity.

6. Choose a channel for your campaign.
Social media such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr were used to promote this campaign.

These co-stars have all spoken up about their experiences with mental health issues and its impact. Jared has spoken out on his struggle with depression and anxiety, Misha has talked about his experience of bullying, its impact and how he self-harmed in the past. Jensen also speaks about how he struggled with being away from his family, how particular storylines affect him and the impact watching Jared’s struggle had on him and how losing friends to suicide affected him.

“People who are dealing with depression and addiction or suicidal thoughts or mental illness…they’re strong. You’re strong because you’ve been in this fight and you wake up thinking you’re going to beat it again today.” Jared Padalecki 

The number of fan testimonies of how these actors and their show have saved or helped them in some way is remarkable. Jared, Jensen and Misha have proven themselves to be successful mental health advocaters on their use of social media; it is unusual to see social media being used to establish an incredible online support network of this magnitude for those suffering from mental health issues.

Image result for always keep fighting campaign

The reminder that your favourite actors are human too, that you can have money, success and fame yet still struggle with your mental health creates a sense of solidarity between the celebrities and fans. The cast of Supernatural has managed to perfect this, and use it as a way to promote awareness.

Remember #AlwaysKeepFighting! 

Celine Ward is a 3rd year Communication Management with Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on on LinkedIn: and found on twitter @celinemward

Dealing with depression and anxiety-A letter to someone who “worries about nothing”.

I was overwhelmed and blown away by your honesty and openness when talking about your struggle. I thought I knew you inside and out. Your accounts of your fight to survive triggered a feeling of guilt and shame. Shame that I couldn’t ‘pick up’ on the signs and support you like a best friend should. To me, that day was just like any other, a few laughs and the typical rants about our daily lives. Laughing was far from my mind once you spoke those three little words; “I CAN’T COPE”. Three little words with such significant meaning but that are used so often in everyday life it devalues its meaning.

Once you began to explain how you felt it suddenly all made sense. Your need to be out all the time, wasn’t to do with you ‘having a drinking problem’-it was so you didn’t have to be on your own with your own thoughts. You being late to work every single day wasn’t because you were ‘lazy’ but because you struggled to get any sleep the night before. Why didn’t you talk to me before? Was the only question I could ask out of fear of saying something wrong. Here is when I got a true understanding of why you didn’t want to talk about it before-people just don’t understand or don’t know what to say. They think you are just ‘worrying about nothing’ or ‘you are just stressed out’. Even people normalising depression and anxiety by saying things like, ‘I’m going to take a nervous breakdown’, when something so trivial happens in their lives. I too am guilty of this.

The mental health foundation states that depression is the main mental health problem worldwide, with anxiety disorder close behind. This asks an important question- why is depression and anxiety still so stigmatised? Why do people feel ashamed to talk about their mental health? The way we pre-judge others and your daily struggle with depression and anxiety inspired me to do this blog. In the hopes to inform others of the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety and not to judge people based on these symptoms.

AWARE states that the main symptoms of depression are;
• Loss of confidence and low self-esteem
• Tiredness and lethargic
• An unusually sad mood
• Difficulty sleeping
• Loss in appetite or eating more
• Feelings of guilt
• Wishing you were dead

AWARE is a fantastic charity that focuses on depression and is Northern Irelands only charity to do so. It offers support groups where you can talk to people who know exactly how you are feeling. It also allows for your family and friends to get a better understanding of depression, so we can support you like we should through your daily life.

To get more information on the signs and symptoms of depression and where to access AWARE’s services visit:

If you could do one thing in life, be kind, you just never know what other people are going through.

Lisa Corrigan is a final year student on the BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on Facebook  

Mental Health Awareness

What is mental health illness to you?

A question I have asked myself many times before… until I began to have an in-depth understanding last year when I undertook a placement year in a chemist.

There are many different types of mental health illnesses a few to state of the top of my mind;

*Anxiety *Depression *Post-traumatic stress *Eating disorders

The list could go on and on….

I googled ‘what is mental health illnesses’ and the response I received was, ‘Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion or behaviour (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities’.

A lot of people don’t understand what mental health illnesses are, and this is why I think mental health awareness needs to be promoted a lot more especially to the younger generation like myself. Social media is massive as we all know, and is an incredible communication source to get a message across.

This year on social media especially Facebook and Instagram, individuals promoted, ‘World Mental Health Day’ on the 10th October.


I myself posted an image to my Facebook profile, and my Instagram account as recently mental health illnesses have touched me very close to home this year. (I am never one to post much)

I used the hashtags #FightTheStigma #BeKindAlways which were trending for Mental Health Awareness Day


I got a great response from younger people. One simple post could save someone, explaining to them that they are not alone or discovering helpline numbers they can call which they may not have known about before.

It really is the simple things in life that can help someone.

World Mental Health Day provides an opportunity ‘for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide’.

Mental health illnesses are real conditions. People need to stop and think before they speak, get to know someone before they begin to prejudge them. You don’t know what he or she has been through until you walk in their shoes.

We need to break the stigma and speak out, nobody is alone.

Many celebrities, bloggers and many more posted on social media about mental health illnesses, and this is where the young generation will learn about these conditions.

‘Little Penny’s book of Thoughts’ is an inspirational book full of powerful and touching quotes, which many of us know. This is a woman called Annette who posts every day little inspiring quotes, that people know as a ‘pick me up’. She is an amazing woman as mental health campaigner, with 264k plus page likes and 265,000 plus followers on Facebook alone. She posts ‘daily pockets of positivity’.


On World Mental health Day she posted the below post which got 1.6k likes and 1k shares. This post was truly amazing. Annette is a Compiler of Little Penny’s Book of Thoughts. ‘Mind-set mentor/speaker and workshop facilitator and a Mental Health Advocate’.



People who say that one harsh comment in passing could completely ruin someone’s self-esteem whereas that simple compliment, ‘your outfit is gorgeous’ could literally make someone’s smile light up a corridor.

As a 22 year old girl, I have had an absolute roller coaster of a year BUT that’s a story for another day. From one extreme to the next, I eventually seen the, ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. Which has been an eye-opener to say the least, from claiming what was the ‘worst year of my life’ to the biggest learning curve I could never have imagined, I can eventually stand strong and believe it eventually does get better.

‘Hard times will always reveal true friends’


Time is a healer

Saying goodbye to the negativity in your life is the first and hardest step of your journey, speaking from experience, you can do it!

Progress takes time and time takes patience (I was never a patient woman). Every day is a new beginning and the light will always shine bright even if you can’t see it.

It’s okay not to be okay. Nobody is alone #FightTheStigma #BeKindAlways

As part of our PR module this year we are making a campaign for ‘AWARE NI’ to bring awareness to the public of who AWARE NI are and what they do.

AWARE NI are the national depression charity for Northern Ireland – and the only charity working exclusively for people with depression and bipolar disorder.

If you are in need of help with mental health illnesses please look into this amazing charity, whether it be to donate, attend a support group, fund-raise, or simply needing someone to contact when you are in need they are outstanding.

Check the charity out on;,


Call; 028 7126 0602

Possibly attend a support group within your area, avail of their online support groups or whatever it may be, AWARE NI are more than happy to help!!

If you take anything from this student blog please know that no matter how bad things get you will survive to tell the tail and things can only get better… TRUST ME 🙂

Breige Hollywood is a final year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at and Twitter @ HollywoodBreige


‘Minding Your Head’ – Let’s Break The Stigma!

What do we think of when we hear the term Mental Health? Bravery? Negativity? Unfortunately in 2018 there is a stigma attached to mental health problems, resulting in a social discomfort when discussing mental health and consequently a slower recovery rate.

It’s time we broke that stigma.



The definition of mental health can be known as a ‘person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being’. So why when we hear these words do we automatically assume the worst? Why do we associate mental health as a form of weakness?

It’s time for a change; the percentage of mental health issues throughout Northern Ireland has never been higher. So let’s end the mental health discrimination! Let’s embrace mental health in all that it is and let’s support all those affected by it!

Surviving the mental health stigma– this is something that we shouldn’t have to deal with. Mental health is a long difficult road that many of us are facing without adding the prejudice that is attached to it. A broken arm takes time and medical support to heal. A broken mind is no different. Celebrating each other’s imperfections can only leave room for acceptance and positivity in a world full of neglect and resentment. Supporting and discussing mental health in Northern Ireland can help break the stigma and encourage others to seek help! Support today by speaking out about mental illness.



Too often we focus on what is wrong with us, what we don’t have compared to someone else and what we want instead of what we need. How about taking a step back and focusing on what we do have? Focusing on the future we can create and look forward to the amazing things that await us. Because that’s all we need …. focus. The focus on the positive things, the things that will inspire us to do better and be better! Find your inspiration and thrive off it.

Below are some of my top tips for looking after your mental health:

Number 1:

  • Do what makes you happy (even if it is spending all your student loan on travelling). What’s the point of not doing what makes you happy? Let nothing hold you back, not friends, not partners, not money, not circumstance. The world is your oyster!


Number 2:

  • Avoid the negativity. We all know someone that we just can’t seem to impress no matter how hard we try. You can’t please everyone and that’s for sure. Avoid the drama, avoid the negativity. Simple!


Number 3:

  • Ask for help – never feel it is a sign of weakness. Asking for help is a part of life, whether it be from a friend, a lecturer or a total stranger. None of us are superhuman, help is never too far away.


Number 4:

  • Get plenty of sleep! Sleep is the best sort of medicine. A full 8 hours (10 in my case) will help set you up for a day full of motivation.


Number 5:

  • Take a break. Take a break from it all; work, social media, life. Time to yourself is important; silence for just a few minutes a day to clear your head leaves room for a healthier mind.


Number 6:

  • Express yourself. Whether it is through dance, talking, exercise or writing, it is so important to express yourself. Getting one simple problem off your mind takes a weight you didn’t know you were carrying off your shoulders.


Number 7:

  • Take care of others. The problem with the stigma of mental health is that no one is open to discussing it. By opening up and taking care of one another whatever the problem may be, this ultimately supports one another- tackling mental health straight on! “We rise by lifting others”


Moral of the story – try to be there for each other- we don’t know what sort of battle people are facing. Be kind always.

Lifeline: 0808 808 8000

Caoimhe Conway is a 4th year Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @caoimhe_conway /  Instagram: caoimheconway / LinkedIn:



How PR is Changing our Perspective on Mental Health

Opening up about our mental health has always been considered a difficult topic. Up until recently, people were unaware of the meaning behind the term ‘Mental Health’ and what it involved. Understanding mental health and the issues that many people face is a relatively new concept. Thankfully, now in the 21st Century, people are becoming more accepting of mental health struggles; they are not as ignored as what they once were. According to public affairs expert and mental health advocate Katrina Gay, the stigma surrounding mental health is continuing to breakdown and the public relations sector has had a huge impact on this breakthrough.

Image result for CIPR and mental health

The public relations industry and the progression of mental health understanding work extremely well together. This is the case more so now than ever due to the digital advancements and the growing use of the Internet within the public relations sector. People do not want to be defined by their mental health issues; they want to be accepted for who they are as a person and valued for their personal qualities and skills. The Internet and particularly social media platforms, have provided people with a voice to express themselves with.

Creating campaigns to remove the stigma attached to mental health has become an increasingly popular method to achieve this goal. However, the way in which these campaigns are approached needs careful thought and attention. Mental health is a sensitive topic for many people to discuss, it can cause a great deal of discomfort and distress if approached in the wrong way. A fantastic campaign currently run by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry known as Heads Together, has made tremendous improvements to how mental health is viewed by society. These Royals used their statuses to their advantage to promote mental health awareness. The campaign reaches out to a range of audiences such as young people and people who have lost loved ones. A fantastic way in which they promoted their campaign was to get involved in the 2017 London Marathon. Each runner that took part in the London Marathon received a ‘Heads Together’ headband and a letter from the three Royals wishing them luck on their marathon, and to also show support for Heads Together. This went viral, journalists, bloggers and mental health advocates instantly began to talk about this and what the Heads Together campaign was all about.

Related image

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are great tools to use for reaching out to people about mental health. This can be through campaign promotion, setting up a Facebook page where people can talk about their mental health struggles and how to seek help, or posting a Twitter blog on understanding mental health. A great Facebook page currently run by ‘The Mighty’  has a range of tips and advice on coping with mental health difficulties.

The CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) makes a huge effort to promote mental health care, particularly around certain times of the year such as Mental Health Awareness Week. They work alongside the mental health charity ‘AWARE’ and aim to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. The CIPR also provides information for people working within the PR industry on how to manage stress and the struggles involved within this career. 59% of people working within the PR industry have experienced mental ill health. It can be a challenging career and the CIPR aim to make public relations professionals more aware of mental health. Also, how organisations within this sector can support employees who may be struggling.

People within the public relations profession have a knowledge on how to effectively communicate. By using their skills, they can help to continue to breakdown the stigma surrounding mental health. This can be through an effective campaign, working alongside mental health charities and advocates, sponsoring events such as Mental Health Awareness week, or simply by publishing reports on current speeches or events that have taken place regarding mental well-being.

It is vital that we continue to work on how we can change the way in which mental health is viewed and what can be done to create a positive energy surrounding discussion on this topic.


Anna Haughian is a final year Communication Management and Public Relations Student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter  @anna_haughian and on Linkedin: