What is this research stream?

Northern Ireland’s Mental Health Strategy calls for new ways of working including use of digital to complement traditional services. Ireland’s ‘Sharing the Vision’ policy talks of mental health promotion, early intervention and improved access to person-centred digital mental health services.

Access to digital mental health services can be anonymous, free, accessible any time, and deliver self-managed care into the hands of a young person. The speed of growth in the power of artificial intelligence means that automatic digital mental health interventions such as chatbots or self-help counsellors are becoming ubiquitous and much more useful and effective.

But can digital make a difference to our young people’s mental health? Our ambition in Atlantic Futures is to seek to answer that question, by engaging with young people across the Atlantic area to help co-produce an understanding of their needs, that we will match to the best digital interventions available. Our research will identify what is acceptable to young people and inform policy makers both North and South what can be implemented that is cost-effective and efficacious.

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What is involved?

This research stream aims to:

  • Engage young people and on the ground mental health professionals to identify the main features of digital mental health interventions to improve the accessibility and efficacy of mental health services.
  • Identify sets of appropriate digital mental health applications, and identify how they might be used to support mental health services and improve accessibility in the two regions.
  • Examine the impact of alternative ways of delivering mental health promotion and early intervention in community settings.
  • Bring together a range of statutory and non-governmental agencies including the following partners: Action Mental Health; the youth panel of the NI Commissioner for Children and Young People; Pure Mental NI; Jigsaw; National Youth Council of Ireland.

Get Involved

Our research aims to promote youth mental health and wellbeing through innovative digital support and blended services, in partnership with young people across Ireland, particularly those who are marginalised. We are looking for passionate, creative and dedicated people  aged between 16 and 25, Northern Ireland, or between 18 and 25, Republic of Ireland, to participate in our reference groups and workshops.


Who is involved?

Professor Margaret Barry, University of Galway Image

Professor Margaret Barry, University of Galway

Professor Margaret Barry holds the established Chair in Health Promotion and Public Health and is Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Health Promotion Research at University of Galway. Professor Barry has published extensively on promoting population mental health and wellbeing and has a strong track record of working with practitioners and policymakers on the development, implementation and evaluation of policies and strategies for mental health promotion at national and international levels. She also has substantial experience in researching complex mental health promotion and prevention interventions for disadvantaged and marginalised groups, including cross-border rural communities and disadvantaged young people in school and youth sector settings. She served as Global President of the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (2019-2022) and served two terms as scientific member of the European Commission Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health (2013-2019).

Professor Gary Donohoe, University of Galway Image

Professor Gary Donohoe, University of Galway

Professor Gary Donohoe is Professor of Psychology at University of Galway. He is a European Research Council Fellow, a Health Research Board Leader in Youth Mental Health, and chair of the HRB collaborative doctoral program in Youth mental health. His current research focuses on better understanding and developing interventions for serious mental health disorders in early adulthood.

Professor Siobhán O’Neill, Ulster University and Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland Image

Professor Siobhán O’Neill, Ulster University and Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland

Professor Siobhan O’Neill is currently a Professor of mental health sciences at Ulster University leading related research studies projects including the PEACEIV funded Our Generation resilience and peacebuilding interventions in Urban Village and border areas; and MRC Future minds, identifying the mental health research priorities for young people in NI. She is also the Mental Health Champion for NI, working across government to advance the promotion of mental health and wellbeing in all policy areas and overseeing the implementation of NI’s Mental Health Strategy.

Professor Maurice Mulvenna, Ulster University Image

Professor Maurice Mulvenna, Ulster University

Professor Maurice Mulvenna, is a researcher in computer science and artificial intelligence at Ulster University, known for his contribution to interdisciplinary research in health, mental health and wellbeing with colleagues in psychology, business, nursing, and healthcare. He is principal investigator or investigator on over 100 research projects, many related to the development of mental health and wellbeing interventions, including the ChatPal project which includes the design and trial of a chatbot to support mental health and wellbeing. He chaired the 32nd British HCI conference in 2018, the 31st European Cognitive Ergonomics Conference in 2019 and the International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Ageing Well and e-Health 2021-2023. Maurice is a past winner of the European €200K IST Grand Prize, and has won the Societal Impact Award at the UK National KTP Best of the Best Awards 2020.

Courtney Potts, Ulster University Image

Courtney Potts, Ulster University

Courtney Potts is a Research Associate in Digital Health in the School of Psychology, Ulster University. After completing her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences, Courtney went on to study for a master’s degree in Bioinformatics and Computational Genomics, which sparked an interest in data science and a desire to work in research. Her research interests include computing and mental health, digital technologies for wellbeing and data analysis. Courtney is also working on a number of mental health and dementia data analytics projects for her PhD studies.

Dr Carmen Kealy, University of Galway Image

Dr Carmen Kealy, University of Galway

Carmen holds a Doctorate in Sociology and a BA in Political Science, Sociology and Psychological Studies from the University of Galway. Her doctoral thesis explored Polish migrant parents’ experiences of child-rearing and help-seeking in a culturally diverse neighbourhood in Ireland. Her research interests include; children, youth and parenting, but also inequality experienced by ‘marginalised’ groups. Since completion of her PhD, Carmen has worked on various collaborative projects such as the Mind the Gap report: Research on barriers to the realisation of rights of children with disabilities in Ireland (Centre for Disability Law and Policy in the University of Galway- funded by Ombudsman for Children); Crisis Coping: Living and Learning through COVID-19 (UCFRC and School of Education at University of Galway-funded by HRB and IRC) and the It's not just Science! Project (School of Education-funded by HEI). In 2021, as the only non-psychologist, Carmen was awarded one of 17 COVID-19 Global fellowships from the Society for Research on Adolescence.

Jamie McNulty, Ulster University Image

Jamie McNulty, Ulster University

Jamie McNulty is a PhD researcher in the School of Psychology, Ulster University. After completing her undergraduate degree in Psychology, Jamie went on to study for a master’s degree in Health Psychology as well as a practitioner's diploma in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. She has extensive experience working in the voluntary and community sector on various projects and has a particular interest in mental health and wellbeing supports for young people and suicide prevention.  Jamie is also a Mental Health First Aid instructor and provides children's wellbeing workshops privately.

Alba Madrid Cagigal, University of Galway Image

Alba Madrid Cagigal, University of Galway

Alba is a PhD researcher and psychologist who is extremely passionate and interested in research. Conducting a study that aimed to determine the relationship between body dissatisfaction and alexithymia in non-clinical populations as part of her undergraduate thesis enabled her to realise the importance of conducting high-quality research. As part of Alba’s MSc in Health Psychology she also conducted a study that aimed to investigate the effect of stress on snacking behaviour among college students. Pursuing her masters and conducting this study has allowed Alba to discover multiple new areas of psychology and develop a range of research skills. Alba’s long term goal is to advance her research skills and work as a senior researcher in an applied research setting.



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