School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health
Academic Staff - Mental Health Nursing
Phone number: 01 700
In 1988 I qualified as a mental health nurse and headed off from Ireland with my new found insights to change the world. Spending most of my early career in England with some brief sojourns in Australia and the Middle East. As a practitioner I have pretty consistently worked with people whom some would classify as having a serious psychotic illness, others as ‘having extraordinary experiences’ and more specifically concentrating on acute mental health care. Other roles over time have varied with the common grounding of practice and healing at the centre of each one: as a researcher/practitioner; in practice/service development; in community development; and as a community activist.
Since my return to Ireland with my family in 2001 I now find myself somewhere between an ivory tower and lived experiences, as a lecturer in practice. I practice on an acute psychiatric admission ward and am consistently involved in developing interesting innovative courses and programmes to meet practice needs. My methodological preferences lie in Participatory Inquiry, as generally my purpose is to both understand and transform the systems I research with. My substantive research programme is around ‘transforming dialogues in mental health communities’. The contribution of this programme of research to community development was recognised with the DCU Presidents Award for Civic Engagement in 2011 for one project Mental Health Trialogue Network Ireland www.trialogue.co
Much of this work centres around people reconciling their own experiences, perceptions and practices with other people/groups associated with mental health and using different approaches to improve these at individual, group, organisational and community level. Examples of relevant areas include; where people have extraordinary experiences and beliefs; when people are disenfranchised by society and community; in the area of Understanding and Responding to Trauma; Dual Diagnosis; Capacity Building amongst People With Experience of Mental Health Difficulties and Families/Carers; and Developing Recovery College in the Community. Approaches include cooperative learning, participative action, open dialogue and systemic family constellations work.
I recognised earlier on that one way to push the boundaries of health care practice was to seek academic pursuits in other areas. Beginning with grounding in Health Studies for my first degree and then going on to complete a Masters in Sociology of Health and Health Care. For my sins, returning to nursing and completing my Doctorate in Nursing Science. Thankfully I have found new insights, lost some along the way and am still trying to change the world.
Research interests predominantly lie in the areas of mental health practice and sociological inquiry and my preferred methodologies are those aligned with Participatory Inquiry. In particular I am involved in understanding and transforming the various dialogues that underpin and are evolving in mental health communities, with a view to bringing about a positive change for people engaged with these communities.
For several years I have been exploring ‘Open Dialogue’ as an effective way for practitioners to communicate; for organisations to engage in collaborative changes; and for communities to have open conversations about contentious issues.
Research projects include; a national study exploring the experience of stigma and discrimination by people with mental health problems; a national action research study examining the impact of a collaborative leadership programme and change management model on mental health services improvement; increasing the impact of experts by experience on mental health care in Ireland; and a community development project co-leading the establishment of the Mental Health Trialogue Network Ireland (www.trialogue.co)
More recent projects include funding to increase capacity for service users and family members to be involved in the design, development and delivery of mental health services in Ireland; and co-funding to develop a Recovery College in Dublin North East. Since 2004 I have been actively involved in research and development in Ireland in the area of Dual Diagnosis (mental health and substance use). The changing paradigm in mental health arena has taken my practice and research focus more and more into systemic trauma and rights based approaches in the community.