Our member Roberta Richmond has been presented with the British Empire Medal for services to mental health in the community in east Belfast.

Roberta, who is CEO of East Belfast Community Counselling, was presented with her award by David Lindsay, Lord Lieutenant of County Down, in a ceremony at Hillsborough Castle.

“The day was great,” said Roberta. “It was very informal.


“I felt proud to receive the award in recognition of my work and contribution. It also felt a bit surreal to be standing in the grand room with a man in uniform presenting me with a medal.

“I feel it is a recognition of mental health and receiving an award like this puts the spotlight on mental health and the need for more service provision, especially in areas high social deprivation like inner east Belfast.”

Roberta had to keep the news about her award a secret until it was officially announced.

Earlier this month, she joined 30 other people, who were also recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, for the ceremony at Hillsborough Castle.

It was followed by tea and coffee and a chance to talk to the Lord Lieutenant about Roberta’s work in the community.

Roberta, an accredited BACP member, set up East Belfast Community Counselling in 2010 with a grant from Unlimited, a charity for social entrepreneurs.

Last year, the charity received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services last year and helped around 1,900 people.

Limited service

Roberta said: “Our offices are based in an area where I grew up and where I was aware there was no counselling service at community level, apart from a very limited service provided by local churches.

“I firmly felt that in a country like Northern Ireland and its divisions, religion was best kept out of the counselling room."

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