Local Organising Committee

Professor Siobhan O’Neill

Professor of Mental Health Sciences at Ulster University

Professor Siobhan O’Neill is a Professor of Mental Health Sciences at Ulster University.
In 2008 Siobhan coordinated the largest ever study of mental health in Northern Ireland, the NI Research and Development Office funded, NI Study of Health and Stress. This study revealed the high proportions of the NI population who had unmet mental health needs and the extent of mental illness and suicidal behaviour associated with the NI conflict. Siobhan is also a coordinator of the NI suicide study, a study of the characteristics of over 1600 suicides and undetermined deaths.
Siobhan is an advisor to several suicide prevention and mental health organisations who provide services and interventions for mental health and suicide prevention. She sits on national and international research committees. She has over 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals, including several ground breaking studies of mental health and suicidal behaviour in Northern Ireland.


Her current research programmes focus on maternal mental health, mental health in school children, and the transgenerational transmission of Troubles related trauma. She is currently involved in studies of mental health in students, the biological basis of mental illness and suicidal behaviour, and suicide crisis line caller behaviour and outcomes.

Professor Rory O’Connor

2nd IASP Vice President, Head of the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory at Glasgow University

Rory O'Connor has a long-standing interest in suicide research and prevention; he has been working in the field since 1994. He is Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Glasgow in Scotland and Past President of the International Academy of Suicide Research. Rory leads the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory (www.suicideresearch.info) at the University of Glasgow, one of the leading suicide and self-harm research groups in the UK. 

He has published extensively in the field of suicide and self-harm, specifically concerning the psychological processes which precipitate suicidal behaviour and self-harm. In addition, he is author of Understanding Suicidal Behaviour (with Noel Sheehy), co-editor of The Routledge Major Works Series on Suicide (with Keith Hawton) and co-editor of the International Handbook of Suicide Prevention (2nd edition with Jane Pirkis).

He has also been the UK National Representative for the International Association for Suicide Prevention. He is co-organiser (with Barry McGale and Siobhan O’Neill) of the 30th IASP World Congress to be held in his native Derry (Northern Ireland) in 2019. He is passionate about mentoring the next generation of suicidologists, to this end, he is co-organiser of the Early Career Researchers’ Forum on Suicide and Self-harm (held in Glasgow). He is a member of the American Association of Suicidology, serves on the Scientific Review Board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and is an Associate Editor of Archives of Suicide Research, Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior and Behavior Therapy. He is also on the editorial board of Crisis. Rory acts as an advisor to a wide range of national and international organisations including national governments on the areas of suicide and self-harm.

Barry McGale

Suicide Prevention Consultant & Trainer

Barry is currently a Suicide Prevention Consultant & Trainer with Suicide Bereavement UK and Livingworks Incorporated, Canada and Patron for the Support After Suicide Partnership (England).

He is a Director of The National Suicide Research Foundation (Ireland) and Board of Members.


In 2016, Barry was the winner of the American Association of Suicidology, Roger J Tierney Award for services in suicide prevention.


He is a qualified Cognitive Behavioural Nurse Therapist and has recently retired from clinical practice.


In 1997, Barry was appointed to the post of Suicide Awareness Co-ordinator in the Western Health & Social Care Trust and was responsible for the implementation of the former Western Health and Social Services Board Suicide Prevention Strategy.


The current service in the Western Trust is one that has been recognised as a model of best practice and the “Derry Model” has been referred to in parliament as the model that should be replicated throughout the UK.

In spring 2001, he was the Irish representative on the People to People Ambassador international delegation to Cuba to review mental health services.


He was a 2004 nominee for the position of Director of the Prevention Division on the Board of the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) and was the International Representative on the Board of AAS 2006 -2008.

He was appointed as a member of the Scottish Executive’s Research Expert Group on Suicidal Behaviour in 2004 and was a member of the Northern Ireland Bamford Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability subgroup on mental health promotion and suicide prevention.

He was a finalist in the RCN Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year 2008 and recipient of the 2012 Florence Nightingale Travel Scholarship where he reviewed postvention services in Australia.


Barry is a former Director of the Board of the Irish Association of Suicidology and a member of the American Association of Suicidology. He was also the Chairperson of Youthlife, a voluntary organisation who provides services for young people who have experienced loss though separation, divorce or bereavement.

Brendan Bonner

Head of Health & Social Wellbeing Improvement, Public Health Agency

Brendan Bonner is the PHA’s Head of Health & Social Wellbeing (West) and lead on Self Harm Registry project.


Brendan has worked in Public Health since 2002 and was involved in the initial consultation process on Protect Life in 2005/06. Brendan was the Public Health lead on the development of the suspected suicide real time data reporting initiative (SD1), the development of protocols to addressing suspected suicide clusters (Community Response Plans), the development of a community capacity initiative and quality assurance standards (CLEAR) and is currently working with agencies in the UK and Ireland on the mainstreaming of the SD1 and cluster response models.


Brendan has been co-author of a number peer review papers and publications on self-harm including, mental health of long-term unemployed males, characteristic of hospital treated intentional drug overdose, Hospital-treated deliberate self-harm in the western area of NI, the NI Registry of Self-harm annual reports and Six Year Review Report on Self-Harm in the Western Area and the supplement on Repetition Rates.


Brendan has also been involved in research into the impact of the smoking ban on the health of bar workers, Health Impact Assessment into a housing regeneration project, addressing road safety for rural school children as part of his wider Public Health remit.

Keith Hawton 

Keith Hawton is Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Centre for Suicide Research at Oxford University Department of Psychiatry. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and an Emeritus National Institute for Health Research Senior Investigator. His research group conducts investigations concerning the causes, treatment, prevention and outcome of suicidal behaviour. He has received the Stengel Research Award from the International Association for Suicide Prevention, the Dublin Career Research Award from the American Association of Suicidology, the Research Award of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Morselli Medal from the International Association of Suicide Research.Dr. Trisha Forbes recently completed her PhD in Queen’s University Belfast, which was a qualitative inquiry of young people’s perceptions of suicide in an area outside West Belfast, and their feelings of connectedness to the community.

Trisha Forbes 

Post Doctoral Research Fellow, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queens University Belfast

Dr. Trisha Forbes recently completed her PhD in Queen’s University Belfast, which was a qualitative inquiry of young people’s perceptions of suicide in an area outside West Belfast, and their feelings of connectedness to the community.

Trisha has worked on a number of research projects relating to suicide and mental health, including ‘Exploring a community response to multiple deaths of young people by suicide’, a project conducted within the former Centre for Effective Education in Queen’s University Belfast, sponsored by the local charity, Contact. More recently she worked in the Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Well-Being in Ulster University, on the IMPACT study: Improving Mental Health Pathways and Care for Adolescents in Transition to Adult Services in Northern Ireland

Trisha has recently taken up a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow post, in the School of Nursing and Midwifery in Queen’s University Belfast, on a project about adapting digital social prescribing for suicide bereavement support.

John Meehan 

HSE Assistant National Director - Head of National Office for Suicide Prevention and Lead for Community Strategy & Planning


John began his career as a psychiatric nurse and worked in London for thirteen years in a number of clinical and managerial positions before returning to Ireland where he took over the position of Director of Nursing in Sligo/Leitrim Mental Health Services. He continued his career as Regional Mental Health Specialist for HSE West and later became Senior Operations Manager within the HSE Mental Health Division. Following this, John assumed the role of interim Area Manager in Galway/Roscommon Mental Health Services before returning to the Mental Health Division and taking up the position of Assistant National Director with responsibility for NOSP. John's national brief was extended in January 2018 to include Mental Health Strategy and Planning.


John holds a Masters in Public Sector Management and has a particular interest in Mental Health Legislation, Mental Health and Primary Care. He currently chairs the mental health strategy group as part of cross border work with colleagues in Northern Ireland in collaboration with Cooperation And Working Together (CAWT).

Professor Ella Arensman

Professor and Chief Scientist, School of Public Health, College of Medicine and Health & National Suicide Research Foundation, University College Cork, Ireland

Professor Ella Arensman is Research Professor with the School of Public Health, University College Cork, Chief Scientist with the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF), Ireland, and Co-Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Surveillance and Research in Suicide Prevention. She is Vice President of the European Alliance Against Depression, and past President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention. She is Visiting Professor with the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, Griffith University, Brisbane, and an expert advisor for WHO.

Prof Arensman has been involved in research and prevention into suicide, self-harm and related mental health and social issues for more than 30 years and she leads a multidisciplinary research team. Her interests and expertise represent multiple research areas, including risk and protective factors associated with suicide and self-harm, real-time surveillance of suicide and self-harm, effectiveness of suicide prevention and self-harm intervention programmes, and clustering and contagion of suicidal behaviour. In Ireland, she played a key role in developing the first and second National Suicide Prevention Programme: Reach Out, 2005-2014, and Connecting for Life, 2015-2020. She has published over 140 papers in peer review journals as well as reports for government departments and policy makers.

Eileen Williamson

Chief Executive Officer of the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF)

Eileen Williamson works as the Chief Executive Officer of the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF), an independent research unit recognised by the WHO as a Collaborating Centre for Surveillance and Research into Suicidal Behaviour.  She commenced employment with the late Dr Michael J Kelleher in 1994 and is a founder member of the NSRF.  She holds an MBS in Health Services Management from University College Cork. 


Eileen co-ordinates the NSRF’s Operations Group and in this role contributes to the development of the organisation’s goals, policies and strategic focus.  She is involved in the daily management of the research team and has specific responsibility for finance, legal and human resource-related issues.  In particular, she protects the financial assets and formulates, negotiates and controls the annual budget.  In addition, Eileen is the NSRF’s Company Secretary.  This role involves working with the accountant in the preparation of the yearly audit and ensuring compliance with the Companies Acts regulations.  Eileen researches opportunities for funding and has, with colleagues, made successful grant applications to various funding bodies.  She has extensive experience in the negotiation and financial management of research grants. 


Eileen, together with Dr Paul Corcoran and Professor Ivan J Perry, in 1999, was responsible for the negotiation of the original funding from the Department of Health to establish the National Self Harm Registry Ireland and managed the national roll-out of the system.  She subsequently oversaw the development and implementation of the move from a paper-based system of data transfer to the electronic system.  Together with Mr Barry McGale, Eileen was responsible for the Registry template being utilised in the Northern Ireland Self Harm Registry.

Julie Aiken


Odhran Dunne
Visit Derry

Shauna Houston

Public Health Agency 

Ciaran McKenny

Western Trust

Charlene Lourens-Griffiths

Visit Derry

Wendy Orchard


Amanda O'Neill

Public Health Agency