A County Derry woman has accepted the role of interim Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland.
Siobhan O’Neill, a Professor of Mental Health Sciences at Ulster University’s Coleraine campus, will take on the role while the Department move to an external recruitment process.
Professor O’Neill is one of Northern Ireland’s leading experts in mental health and has had active and passionate involvement in suicide prevention.
The 45-year-old Craigbane native said she was ‘excited’ about the role.
“I am delighted to be taking on the role of mental health champion for the people of Northern Ireland,” she said.
“I look forward to working with the Minister for Health and across the government to make sure that mental health and wellbeing is embedded in all the policies and practices moving forward.
“I’m particularly excited to have the opportunity to work with the people of Northern Ireland to find out about their experiences with mental health services here so that we can create a system of care for individuals and families here, to make life better for everyone.”
“Mental health needs to be a key priority for Northern Ireland as we move through this pandemic and beyond.”
Professor O’Neill has worked for Ulster University since 2000 and has recently established the Northern Ireland Suicide Prevention Network.
Minister for Health, Robin Swann, said her appointment was an important development in sharpening focus on the issue of mental health.
“Since I became Health Minister, I have identified mental health as a significant priority,” he said.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the need for this area of health care to be given the priority it deserves.
“An integral element of bringing that required focus is the appointment of a Mental Health Champion. Professor O’Neill will bring the needs of this sector to the top of the policy agenda.
“Her well established links with the voluntary and community sector will help enhance the links between government and those most closely affected by mental health issues.
“This will be fundamental to successfully tackling the mental health issues faced by us as a society as we move forward.”
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