This month, the Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland, Professor Siobhan O’Neill, is launching the ‘Small Moves, Big Changes’ campaign, to encourage everyone to incorporate some form of physical activity into their daily routine to enhance their mental wellbeing.

“Simple easy steps such as walking or wheeling, playing sport with friends, swimming with the family, or being active around the home, can have a significant positive impact on your mental health,” says Professor Siobhan O’Neill.

“However, many people can feel intimidated or unsure of how to introduce physical activity into their daily life. You don’t have to run a marathon or join a gym; simply put, small moves can create big changes. We are hopeful that our new campaign, that features those that have done just that, will help inspire people, and demonstrate how people across Northern Ireland have forged new active solutions for their own mental wellbeing, as well as forming support networks that help themselves and others through challenging times.”

Featured through this campaign are the stories of those people who have adopted different forms of physical activity to support and improve their own mental wellbeing. The campaign features the Menopausal Mermaids who take a 5-minute bracing dip in the Atlantic Sea every day; Joe and Jason who play recreational five-aside football weekly with a group of lads; local wheelchair basketball meet ups that take place each week, and the mums and dads who take their little ones to physical play. These local heroes illustrate the fantastic ways ‘Small Moves, Big Changes’ can make a positive impact on your mental wellbeing.

Nicole Morelli, Founder of Menopausal Mermaids based in the North Coast says: “I was delighted that myself and the Menopausal Mermaids were asked to be part of this fantastic campaign. I formed the group in 2018 following my hip replacement as a way to keep active and recover. Our group is a mix of diverse women from different backgrounds with a combination of lived experiences from retirement, mental health issues, bereavement, illness and more. By coming together, we collectively support each other and offer an outlet to talk without judgement, as well as keeping active in the most exhilarating way and having a good laugh.”

Joe Donnelly from TAMHI adds: “Our groups come together to let off steam, chat with mates and to leave the stresses of the day at the door. Five-a-side football is a great way to build camaraderie and to create a safe space for our men that wish to talk to one another in confidence. Any form of physical activity is brilliant and escaping to play a game of football for one hour each week with my mates really has helped me and the other members with our mental wellbeing.”

It is recommended that people have at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week to support good physical and mental health; however, the NI Health Survey[1] showed that only 36% of the NI population meet this target. Many of us have difficulty finding the time to exercise, however the good news is that even a small increase brings important physical and mental health benefits.

Physical activity has a positive impact on wellbeing and mood; and exercise can also help people with depression and anxiety. It relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood. And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits.

Many research papers have indicated that modest amounts of exercise can make a real difference. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to deal with challenges, connect with and get support from like-minded people, improve your energy, and outlook, and get more out of life.

For more information on supporting your mental health and how to make ‘Small Moves, Big Changes’ yourself please visit or follow the Mental Health Champion for NI on social media.