Forum on Mental Health

The Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD, will host a Forum on Mental Health on 19 September 2017 in Dublin Castle. At the forum, TDs and Senators will listen to the views of those with experience of mental health services in Ireland.

The forum will be based on engagement and informing debate, with the emphasis on Members listening to the experience.

You can download your copy of the event programme here. Inside you will find more information on the work of the Forum, the areas for discussion on the day and the list of expert panellists.

Event programme Forum on Mental Health


Forum on Mental Health image

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl T.D., Ceann Comhairle

Introduction Seán Ó Fearghaíl, TD, Ceann Comhairle

As Ceann Comhairle I would like to thank you for visiting the webpage of the Parliamentary Forum on Mental Health, taking place in Dublin Castle.

This Forum will provide an opportunity for Members of Dáil and Seanad Éireann to listen to the experiences of those working in the delivery of vital services in the many areas of mental health support in Ireland and also those that use the services.

The Forum will be moderated by broadcaster and journalist Alison O’Connor and following a keynote address from former professional rugby player Alan Quinlan, we will have two panels of experts sharing their views under specific headings

Panel 1: ‘A Vision for Change’ what should follow in terms of policy in the area? How can we refresh the vision?

Panel 2: How can we promote positive mental health in society and the workplace, what works?

As part of this Forum we will have the opportunity to hear from some of the preeminent personalities in service provision and best practice and we actively encourage you to join the debate, share ideas with your colleagues and help us put forward positive and constructive suggestions of how we can shape policy and promote positive mental health. You can find us across the social media platforms using the hashtag #ParlForum or indeed send us an email to

Mental health and wellbeing is a broad and complex area in which much improvement has been carried out over the last numbers of years but there is, however, much work still to be done in terms of policy, service delivery and the social stigma attached to those that require these important services.

As work continues on the policy document that will follow ‘A Vision for Change’, a newly formed Joint Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care will work towards achieving cross-party agreement on the implementation of a single, long-term vision for mental health care and the direction of mental health policy in Ireland. This Forum is an opportunity for us as Parliamentarians to listen to your experience, to open debate and to plan for the future.

The Committee has been given the goal of making “recommendations on how best to align Ireland’s mental health services and supports to increase availability and accessibility, recruit and retain personnel and complete the implementation of ‘A Vision for Change’ in order to provide a more integrated mental health service of the highest quality” and this is where we value your participation.

We are inviting representatives from many different agencies delivering mental health services national and regionally across the spectrum and I look forward to hearing from you too on what is an extremely important area for us all.

Best regards,

Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD

Members of the forum

Panel 1

‘A Vision for Change’: How service provision changed following the Vision, what should follow? And how can we refresh the Vision?

Dr Tony Bates, Jigsaw Youth Mental Health Service
Tony Bates is a clinical psychologist and the Founder of Jigsaw - The National Centre for Youth Mental Health. In 2016, he stepped down from CEO to develop a strategy for embedding mental health and wellbeing in post-primary schools, called “The Listening Schools Initiative”.
Prior to establishing Jigsaw, Tony Head of the Department of Psychology in St. James’s Hospital, Dublin. He worked and trained in the United States and Oxford University alongside some of the World’s leading thinkers in mental health. On his return to Ireland in 1990, he established the Trinity College Dublin’s Masters in Cognitive Psychotherapy.
Tony is a regular contributor to print and broadcast debate about mental health. He was an editor of ‘A Vision for Change’, and involved in producing ‘Connecting for Life’, ‘Better Outcomes, Better Futures’, and several other reports on suicide prevention, and youth mental health. He is currently a member of the advisory council for the implementation of Better Outcomes, Better Futures within the department of children and youth affairs. He is also a member of the National Task Force on Youth Mental Health.
He is the author of a number of bestselling books including “Coming through Depression: a mindful approach to recovery”.

Dr. Shari McDaid, Director of Mental Health Reform
Dr Shari McDaid was appointed Director of Mental Health Reform, the national coalition advocating for reform of the mental health system, in October 2013. She is the Chairperson of the Children’s Mental Health Coalition and a member of the Healthy Ireland Council. In July 2016 she was appointed to the National Taskforce on Youth Mental Health by the Minister with responsibility for mental health Minister Helen McEntee. Shari joined Mental Health Reform as Policy Officer in 2011. 
Prior to that, Shari worked with Amnesty International Ireland from 2008 to 2011 as Policy Officer on its mental health campaign. She was previously Policy Officer at the National Disability Authority and Policy and Administration Manager at Shine.
Shari received her PhD in 2008 from the Equality Studies Centre at UCD, with a thesis entitled Power, Empowerment and User Involvement in the Public Mental Health Services in Ireland.
Shari co-edited with Prof. Agnes Higgins the text Mental Health in Ireland: Policy, practice and law, published in 2014 by Gill and Macmillan.

Ms. Anne O'Connor, HSE National Director, Mental Health
Anne O'Connor trained as an  Occupational Therapist in Liverpool and  worked in the UK for a number of years before returning to work in Dublin in 1995 where she completed an MSc in Occupational Therapy in Trinity College. In 2000 she took  up a Project Management role developing primary care services in the South Inner City of Dublin.  
She became the Local Health Manager for North West Dublin in 2007 and Integrated Service Area Manager for Dublin North City in 2011.  
She was appointed  National Head of Operations and Service Improvement for the Mental Health Services with the newly formed Mental Health Division in December 2013 and took up the post of Acting National Director for Mental Health in May 2014. She was formally appointed to the role of National Director in December 2015 and is currently studying for an MSc in Management Practice.
The HSE’s Mental Health Division (MHD) sets out a vision to support the population to achieve their optimal mental health through the provision of a quality service, driven by continuous improvement. Anne has the privilege of leading the 10,000 staff members who deliver mental health services in Ireland – these services are provided to all ages and range from community based services to  acute in-patient care.

Dr. Philip Dodd, HSE National Clinical Advisor and Clinical Group Lead (Mental Health)
Dr Philip Dodd (MB., Msc., MRCPsych., MA., MD.) was appointed National Clinical Advisor and Clinical Group Lead (Mental Health) with the HSE in May 2017.
He is Consultant Psychiatrist/Director of Psychiatry at St. Michael's House Services in Dublin and is Associate Clinical Professor at University College Dublin.
His clinical work includes working with people with intellectual disabilities, and he also has a clinical interest in psychotherapy.
His research interests include ageing and mental health, complicated grief, and mental health service development.

Panel 2

How can we promote positive mental health in society and the workplace, what works?

Mr. Ciaran McLoone, Founder of Connect Mental Health
Ciaran founded Connect Mental Health in January 2015 to help raise awareness of mental health issues and available services in the south Donegal area. Connect Mental Health is a volunteer led, community mental health organisation.  Through events, digital media and educational seminars they aim to:

•    Improve the understanding of suicidal behaviour, mental health and wellbeing and associated protective and risk factors
•    Increase awareness of available mental health services

Connect Mental Health has found success by involving key local and national stakeholders in youth and adult mental health from the outset. This collaborative approach has enabled Connect Mental Health to deliver targeted evidence based events, workshops and resources in a cost effective manner to over 3,000 people to date.

Motivation for creating Connect Mental Health came from Ciaran's lived experience of depression and anxiety. Ciaran is originally from Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal, but lives in Dublin where he works for Fáilte Ireland.

For more information visit:

Mr. Donal Scanlan, Project Manager for Mental Health First Aid Ireland
The Mental Health First Aid Ireland Manager has been working and studying as a professional in the area of mental health and well-being for nearly 20 years. An occasional contributor to digital and print media he often speaks publicly on mental health in Ireland in schools, colleges and the corporate world and has guest lectured at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and University College Ireland. He works regularly with fellow thought leaders supporting and contributing to See Change (National Partnership on Stigma Reduction), Green Ribbon mental health campaign, Cycle Against Suicide and More recently he was appointed as the Manager of Mental Health First Aid Ireland and was tasked with overseeing the official launch, national roll-out, scaling and delivery of training not to mention a national digital and marketing campaign to make it a widely known.

Ms. Cindy O’Connor, Chief Clinical Officer at Pieta House
Cindy O’Connor, Chief Operations Officer and former Clinical Director of Pieta House.
A professional psychotherapist with an MA in Clinical Supervision.  Cindy is accredited both as a Psychotherapist and Supervisor with IACP.
Cindy has a background in Welfare Rights and has worked as a Therapist for the past fifteen years in both private practice and with Barnardos.  She has been involved with Pieta House from its very beginning in 2006 and Co- wrote their therapeutic model she also facilitates workshops in Prevention of Suicide and Self Harm.

Mr. Richard Butler, Bord Gáis Energy
Richard Butler is the occupational health specialist with Bord Gáis Energy. He has five years experience in the field of HR and a further eight years experience in occupational health and safety. Over the past three years Richard has been responsible for rolling out health and wellbeing programmes for employees of Bord Gáis Energy, including a number of mental health initiatives. He has a undergraduate degree in Business Studies with a HR Specialism and a postgraduate diploma in occupational health and safety from Dublin City University. He’s also a qualified nutrition and health coach.

Keynote speaker:

Alan Quinlan
A dedicated and committed former rugby international, Alan played professional rugby and became Munster’s most capped player with a total of 212 appearances before his recent retirement in May 2011. A native of Tipperary town, he began his career with Clanwilliam FC where his magnificent performances saw him make the move to Shannon, in turn representing Munster at provincial level. Alan can also boast the great honour of representing his country, Ireland, at International level.
Alan has spoken openly about his experiences with anxiety and is also a regular ambassador for Young Mental Health Ireland, helping raise awareness by sharing his previous experiences.

The event will be hosted by Alison O'Connor
Alison O'Connor is a journalist and broadcaster. Her work as a political columnist involves regular commentary on current affairs on radio and television. She has a weekly column in The Irish Examiner.

 Further information
Press enquiriesGeneral enquiries
Ciarán Brennan
Press Officer
Leinster House
Kildare St
Dublin 2
D02 XR20
+353 1 618 3903
+353 86 0496518