Grainne O'Neill is carrying out research into suicide and mental health.
VOICES programme awards research scholarships
The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland’s VOICES programme recently awarded a number of scholarships to graduates to carry out research.
They then produced a policy brief to help highlight the plight of those in our society who struggle to have their voice heard.
In total, six scholarships were awarded to graduates from across Northern Ireland researching topics ranging from suicide and human trafficking to women prisoners and lone parents.
In the first in a series of profiles, we meet Grainne O’Neill. Hailing from County Armagh, Grainne attended St Patricks Academy Dungannon before going onto Queens University Belfast to study for a degree in Psychology.
Grainne will be carrying out a piece of research into the area of suicide prevention and awareness.
She successfully completed the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASSIST) course in February 2010 and the Mental Health First Aid course in June 2012.
In 2011 the Niamh Louise Foundation, a suicide awareness and prevention charity based in Counties Armagh and Tyrone, received funding from the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland’s VOICES programme to ‘Capture the voices of families who have been bereaved by suicide’.
Having been an active supporter of the Niamh Louise Foundation since their foundation, Grainne has been involved with this project since June 2012.
The overall aim of the project was to gather stories, producing a book with the personal stories of bereaved families with the objective of providing hope to other families bereaved, but also to educate the community on the importance of seeking help at the first sign of poor mental health.
As well as this, as part of the Scholarship programme, Grainne is producing a policy brief using the main themes which appeared in all the family’s stories. She hopes this will help influence government policy on the issue of mental health and, in particular, the use of anti-depressants and awareness of mental health and suicide.
Speaking about the scholarship programme, Grainne said: “Having just graduated from Queen’s with a 2:1 degree in Psychology, I felt the scholarship would be a great opportunity to expand on the research skills I had already accumulated as part of my studies.
“I have a real passion for the topic of suicide prevention and felt the research could prove to be really beneficial in the ongoing campaign to positively affect government policy, as well as, communities where there is still ongoing stigma around the issue of suicide and mental health”.
Adding: “Having lost a close friend to suicide in 2005, I strongly believe it is vital that family’s voices are heard and their opinions are listened to.
“They are the ones who have first hand knowledge of living with someone with mental illness or suicidal thoughts and it is imperative their views are given higher priority by government”.
On a personal note, Grainne hopes the research programme will allow her to build upon the skills she has gained throughout her academic career and adds to her understanding of suicide and mental health.
Going forward, Grainne says she is “happy for the opportunity to expand upon my knowledge and skills base”.
Adding: “I only graduated last month but I hope this opportunity will work in my favour in the future; enhancing opportunities for both further study and employment.
“I hope to expand on the research, working on recommendations for research into the impact of physical and emotional trauma on the chemical balance in the brain and the associations with the development of poor mental health”.
Grainne’s research will be completed in late August 2012 and will be published, along with all the other research papers on the CFNI website.
For further information on the VOICES programme, please click here.