Mental Health Champion appointed

Date published: 08 September 2021

Following a recent external recruitment process, Health Minister Robin Swann has appointed Professor Siobhan O’Neill as the Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland.

Mental Health Champion

Professor O’Neill is the current Interim Mental Health Champion and Professor of Mental Health Sciences at Ulster University. She is one of Northern Ireland’s leading experts in the field of mental health, known for her active and passionate involvement in suicide prevention. 

Making the announcement Minister Swann said: “The mental health and wellbeing of our population is a priority which has been further highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Appointing a Mental Health Champion is another key step to ensuring those suffering from mental ill health will have access to the services they need, when they need them.  I am delighted that Professor O’Neill has agreed to continue her crucial work that she started as Interim Mental Health Champion.”

During her time as Interim Mental Health Champion, Professor O’Neill has been an advocate for mental health at both public and governmental levels.  She led a mental health and wellness campaign throughout the winter pandemic restrictions and has been an advisor to the Department of Health and Executive colleagues on the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister continued: “I recently announced a new 10-year Mental Health Strategy setting out the future strategic direction of mental health services in Northern Ireland.  I want to break down barriers and put individuals and their needs at the centre of what we do.  The appointment of a long term Mental Health Champion underpins the provision of a voice for the most vulnerable in our society and across government now and in the future.”

Professor O’Neill said: “I am delighted to continue as the Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland, so that the voices of those who struggle with their mental health are heard, and that their voices influence policy and practice to ensure that good mental health and wellbeing is a priority across Government Departments. 

“The 10-year Mental Health Strategy is a positive step in improving mental health services and demonstrates why mental health must be a key priority for Northern Ireland. I look forward to continuing my work with Minister Swann, the Executive, those with lived experience of mental ill health and those who provide services on the ground, to ensure that the actions laid out in the strategy are delivered to help Northern Ireland to flourish as we recover from the current pandemic and into the future.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. Siobhan O’Neill is a Professor of Mental Health Sciences at Ulster University, and the Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland.  Her research programmes focus on trauma, mental illness and suicidal behaviour in Northern Ireland, and the transgenerational transmission of trauma.
  1. Professor O’Neill is focused on improving the mental health of the people here by promoting evidence-based services and care for those who suffer from mental illness and suicidal thoughts. 
  1. As Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland, she will advise and assist in the promotion of mental health and wellbeing though all policies and services throughout the province. Professor O’Neill will advocate for mental health and be a voice for those otherwise voiceless.
  1. Her goal is to communicate the collective voices of people with lived experience and the voices of their families and carers, and to advocate for communities impacted by mental health inequalities.
  1. The Champion will be a public advocate for mental health, communicating the collective voices of people with lived experience, their families and carers, and communities impacted by mental health inequalities.
  1. As a mental health advocate the Champion will act as a positive conduit between government and service delivery.
  1. The Mental Health Champion will work across public, voluntary, independent sectors and wider society, to integrate mental health into policies and provide advice to these stakeholders.
  1. The Mental Health Champion can be contacted at For all media enquiries please contact Caoife Wilkinson, Communications Officer at 07469 919318 or
  1. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email at
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  1. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The Duty Press Officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110

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