The event, at the Park Hotel, Dungarvan, has been organised by Waterford Co Councillor Liam Brazil, supported by the local authority.
Mr Brazil, 53, lost his brother James to suicide 25 years ago, aged 35. “It was very hard to take,” recalls the Fine Gael member.
“Back then there was a huge stigma attached to mental illness and it compounded my mother’s grief that nobody would even mention James’s name afterwards.”
Mr Brazil’s mother, Nora, died a few years ago but the conference will honour a promise he gave her in her last days to promote mental health awareness.
“She wanted to help other mothers avoid going through what she went through,” he recalls. Mr Brazil organised a similar conference in 2012.
Entitled ‘Supports and Developments in Mental Health Care’, the conference will bring together a wide range of speakers from throughout the 32 counties. The guests will deliver professional and personal perspectives on the many issues, including self-harm and substance abuse that surround mental health and suicide, and will endeavour to bring insight, understanding and advise those affected and their families.
Guest speakers on the opening night will include Sr Gertrude Howley, South Easter Regional chairwoman of mental health support organisation Grow; consultant psychiatrist and suicide prevention speaker Dr John Connolly, and Cloyne and former Cork inter-county hurler Conor Cusack.
Saturday’s programme includes: Darryl Barry of the Marine Rescue Service; Chris Shiels of Northern Ireland’s Western Health and Social Care Trust; a Pieta House representative; Ann Baron of Waterford & South East Samaritans; April Duff from youth support Comhairle na nÓg; Nikki Hayes of Spin 1038 FM; HSE South suicide prevention officer Seán McCarthy; and Kevin Collins from support organisation of Aware.
There is no admission charge for the conference, which opens at 6.30pm on Friday, Jan 31. Saturday’s programme will run from 9.30am -5.15pm.