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Culture of Recovery



The importance of culture in supporting and enabling recovery in mental health should not be underestimated. That was one of the key messages to emerge from the public forum organised as part of the University of Ulster’s 10th annual mental health conference.

The two day conference at Magee on the theme ‘Delivering Excellence and Supporting Recovery’ was attended by a wide cross section of mental health professionals, service users, carers, community workers and representatives from cultural organisations and public sector bodies.

Conference organiser and mental health nursing lecturer, Marie O’Neill said: “UK City of Culture is a very significant milestone for the city so it was appropriate to consider how different aspects of culture could facilitate and aid recovery from mental illness.

“Culture means different things to different people but it is very clear from all the discussions we had during the conference that culture in whatever form, whether it art, music, visual, performance or sport can offer people hope, help their confidence and self-belief and have a very positive influence on their mental health and well-being. “The challenge for all of us now is to harness this creative energy in a way that will challenge the social and cultural stigma around mental health.”

She continued: “We had an excellent panel for the open forum and they were each able to give a different perspective on the theme ‘Are we a culture of recovery’. The forum was chaired by Professor Hugh McKenna PVC (Research and Innovation).

Panellists included Kitty O’Kane, Mind Yourself; Ollie Green, Director of Greater Shantallow Community Arts group; Tony Doherty, General Manager of Bogside & Brandywell Health Forum; John Bell, yoga instructor; Liam Quigley, Assistant Director for Day Support and Community Services with Niamh (Northern Ireland Association of Mental Health); Oonagh McGillion, Director of Legacy, Derry City Council; Professor Frank Lyons, Director of the Arts & Humanities Research Institute (AHRI) at the University of Ulster.

The conference programme included a series of keynote presentations and plenary sessions and workshops with contributions from academics, frontline NHS staff and service users from across the UK and Ireland. Keynote addresses were given by Dr Mary Chambers, Professor of Mental Health Nursing, Kingston University and St George’s University of London; Dan Neville TD President of the Irish Association of Suicidology; John Crowe Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Nottingham and Rory O'Connor Professor of Health Psychology, University of Glasgow.


Caption From left: Claire McCauley, University of Ulster event organiser, Liam Quigley, Assistant Director for Day Support and Community Services with Niamh (Northern Ireland Association of Mental Health); John Bell, yoga instructor; Marie O’Neill, Nursing lecturer and event organiser; Deputy Mayor of Derry, Councillor Gary Middleton; Kitty O’Kane, Mind Yourself; Tony Doherty, General Manager of Bogside & Brandywell Health Forum; Professor Hugh McKenna; Ollie Green, Director of Greater Shantallow Community Arts group; Oonagh McGillion, Director of Legacy, Derry City Council and Professor Frank Lyons, Director of the Arts & Humanities Research Institute (AHRI) at the University of Ulster.