Ireland has 'fundamentally good' national mental health policy

We have come a long way in transitioning from an inherited British model of long-stay institutions, says John Saunders of Shine

19th September, 2017
John Saunders, CEO of Shine

What's your name?

John Saunders

What position do you hold?

CEO with Shine – an organisation supporting people affected by mental ill health

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

As CEO I have to guide the whole organisation both strategically and operationally. I spend a lot of time dealing with financial, staff and programme issues. Luckily Shine has a great bunch of staff and supporters which makes my job much easier.

What is your professional background?

Originally nursing, but branched into management and service development.

Tell me about yourself away from work?

We have two boys who are the focus of our lives. For leisure I run about three times a week and recently have taken up cycling. I read a lot of fiction.

Tell us something very few people know about you?

I write poetry!

You are speaking at the 2017 Mental Health Summit. What are you speaking about?

My main interest is service development and organisational change. I have always argued that services need to be in constant but organised change to stay relevant. This is particularly important in mental health where worldwide patterns of service delivery are shifting.

What major challenges do you see for mental health services in Ireland?

We have come a long way in transitioning from an inherited British model of long-stay institutions. We have fundamentally a good national mental health policy. We have developed in relative terms a community mental health approach and we need to complete this process. Outstanding areas of development are full staffing of community mental health teams in general and specialist mental health, the reform of mental health legislation around standards, and further development of the primary health sector in respect of responding to people’s needs.

Where would you like to see our mental health service in 10 years’ time?

Primarily community based, focused on the individual and family needs and restructured to fully support recovery. There needs to be greater emphasis on prevention and early intervention with multi-disciplinary support. We need to move away from a medical and nursing-led model to one based on social care.

John Saunders is appearing at The 2nd National Mental Health Summit. The agenda and further details for this important national event, at the AVIVA Stadium on November 9th, is available at

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