Northern Ireland news

Interim Mental Health Champion appointed

Health Minister Robin Swann with Siobhán O'Neill, the new interim Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland

AN academic known for her passionate involvement in suicide prevention has been appointed Interim Mental Health Champion.

Siobhán O'Neill, a Professor of Mental Health Sciences at Ulster University, is one of the north's leading experts in the field of mental health.

Prof O'Neill has extensive experience of working with the community and voluntary sector.

Making the announcement, health minister Robin Swann said he was delighted that Prof O'Neill had agreed to step into the interim position.

There will be an external recruitment process to make a permanent appointment by April 2021.

"Since I became health minister I have identified mental health as a significant priority. The Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the need for this area of health care to be given the priority it deserves," Mr Swann said.

"I am confident that Professor O'Neill will bring the needs of this sector to the very top of the policy agenda. As a pre-eminent expert in her field, Professor O'Neill is at the forefront in developing responsive services for those affected by trauma and mental illness."

Her role would be expected to include acting as a public advocate for mental health.

She will participate in the public debate around mental resilience, suicide, mental health and recovery.

"Mental health needs to be a key priority for Northern Ireland as we move through this pandemic and beyond. I will bring a wealth of experience, from both an academic and personal perspective to this interim role," Prof O'Neill said.

"I am delighted to have the opportunity to ensure that the voices of those who struggle with their mental health are heard, and that they influence policy and practice across government departments."

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