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EU invests €7.6 million in mental health recovery

March 8, 2018


Three cross border recovery college networks to be set-up to support people with mental health difficulties

A €7.6 million EU INTERREG VA funded cross-border project has been launched in response to the increase in numbers of people with mental health problems. Over the next four years, the large-scale, cross border Innovation Recovery project offers an unprecedented opportunity to empower and enable people and communities to take greater control over their own mental and emotional wellbeing.

This EU funding allocation has been secured by the Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT) Health and Social Care Partnership. The CAWT project partners are the HSE, the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, the Western Health and Social Care Trust, the Public Health Agency and the Health and Social Care Board. The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust is also a project partner.

The recovery colleges will provide education as a route to recovery, with courses devised and delivered collaboratively by people with their own experience of mental illness along with mental health professionals. By adopting this educational approach, alongside or as an alternative to more traditional therapeutic options, it is planned that those participating will be enabled to better understand their mental health. Ultimately, people will be supported to recover and to be able to create a satisfying and meaningful life for themselves.

Jim Daly TD, Minister for Mental Health and Older People at the Department of Health in Ireland and Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health in Northern Ireland jointly announced the launch of this cross border initiative at an event in Dundalk today.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Daly said: “This is an important EU funded project which is taking a cross border approach to developing additional support services for those with mental health difficulties and I congratulate the CAWT partnership for securing the EU funding.” He added: “The Innovation Recovery initiative is taking a community-based approach by supporting people to better understand and manage their mental health within their own localities. The recovery ethos is one which the Department wholeheartedly embraces and is reflected in current policy and practice.”

Also speaking at the event, Dr McBride added: “The Department is delighted to be launching this cross border mental health project. The aims and objectives of the project chimes with our priorities for a modern health and social care service, in particular the focus on early intervention and self-management. It is about giving people the tools and support to identify their needs in recovering from and managing their own mental health. It encourages participants to draw upon both their own personal resources and the support of the wider community.”

Welcoming the launch of the Innovation Recovery project, Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body said: “Improving access to more effective joined-up health and social care services for citizens, is one of the core objectives of the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme and will benefit thousands of people on a cross-border basis. This project represents a radical shift from traditional models of treatment for those with mental health problems, to a more collaborative-based approach that will allow people, on both sides of the border, to become active partners in their journey to recovery. She added: “It will also help challenge the silence and stigma that unfortunately prevents many people from coming forward to receive the help and support that they need.”

Project Chair, John Meehan, Assistant National Director at the HSE and Head of National Office for Suicide Prevention said: “The Innovation Recovery project complements and enhances mental health services delivered by the HSE and our community and voluntary partners, by empowering and supporting individuals and their families and the wider community through a learning, educational approach. At the heart of the recovery college approach is that the participants engage with and learn alongside those who have experienced similar mental health issues.”

Damien McCallion, National Director Emergency Management & CAWT Director General of CAWT opened the launch. Other speakers at the launch event included Michael Ryan, Service Improvement Lead, HSE; Briege McClean, Peer Trainer, WHSCT and John McCormack, Scottish Recovery Network.

There will be a total of 3 recovery college locations across Ireland/Northern Ireland, each with a broad catchment area to ensure access by those geographically or socially isolated. Furthermore, using technology, the recovery college services and courses will also be made available online, thus extending the impact of the project more widely. The three areas which will have new recovery college services are:

Area 1 West: Derry, Coleraine, Letterkenny, Strabane and West Donegal

Area 2 South: Cavan, Monaghan, Sligo, Leitrim and Fermanagh

Area 3 East: Dundalk, Belfast City, Armagh, Newry and Louth

During the project lifetime, 8,000 people will participate in mental health recovery education programmes. 300 mental health practitioners from statutory, voluntary and community sectors will be trained in recovery orientated methods. Additionally, 500 staff from non-mental health services will be trained in mental health awareness and compassionate care of those suffering from mental health illness.

Match-funding for the project has been provided by both Departments of Health in Ireland and Northern Ireland.


Notes to editors:
  • The Innovation Recovery project timeframe is 4.5 years and will complete in 2021.
  • For more information on the  Innovation Recovery project:
  • The  Innovation Recovery project partners are the Southern Health and Social Care Trust,  the Western Health and Social Care Trust and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (Northern Ireland); the HSE (Republic of Ireland) and the Public Health Agency and the Health and Social Care Board (Northern Ireland)
  • The Innovation Recovery project has a budget of €7.6 million and is funded through the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, and match funded by the Northern Ireland Executive, the Irish Government and the Scottish Government.
  • The Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) is a North/South Implementation Body sponsored by the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in Ireland. It is responsible for managing two EU Structural Funds Programmes, PEACE IV and INTERREG VA which are designed to enhance cross-border cooperation, promote reconciliation and create a more peaceful and prosperous society. The Programmes operate within a clearly defined area including Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and in the case of INTERREG VA, Western Scotland.
  • The INTERREG VA Programme has a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) contribution of €240 million and aims to address the economic and social problems which result from the existence of borders.
  • For more information on the SEUPB please visit
 Innovation Recovery Project Objectives
  1. Develop a cross border ‘Hub and Spoke’ Recovery College Learning Network operating across 3 geographical regions, which enables those who provide services and those who use services and their families to come together to co-produce and co-deliver training and support programmes to enhance mental wellbeing and personal resilience;
  2. Deliver recovery education programmes to 8,000 people to support their mental health recovery;
  3. Recruit 12 people with lived experience of mental illness as peer educators to co-produce and co-deliver mental health programmes;
  4. Develop 1 Virtual Recovery College to provide digital information, learning via an on-line portal and Apps to 4,000 people;
    300 mental health practitioners from statutory/voluntary/community sectors trained in recovery orientated methods such as coaching;
  5. 500 staff from across non-mental health services trained in mental health awareness and compassionate care of patients suffering from mental health;
  6. 30 people with lived experience of mental ill-health actively involved in the delivery of the Recovery College Programmes;
    3 Service User / Carer Forums in place.
 Mental health statistics
  • Northern Ireland is reported to have a 25% higher overall prevalence of mental health problems than England.[i]
  • Northern Ireland has consistently had higher antidepressant prescribing costs per capita than other UK regions.[ii]
  • In the Republic of Ireland, young people between 20-24 years of age had the highest rate of all admissions (for psychiatric care) during 2016. The 18-19 year old age group had the highest rate of first admissions – a continuing pattern for seven of the past 10 years. Almost six in 10 admissions were single people and depression remains the most common diagnosis for all admissions.[iii]

[i] Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (2014). Making Life Better: A whole system strategic framework for public health 2013-2023. Department of Health, social Services and Public Safety: Belfast.

[ii] The Department of Health, Social Services, and Public Safety. (2016). Patient Education/Self-Management. Programmes for People with Long Term Conditions (2014/15).

[iii] Health Research Board (HRB): Activities of Irish Psychiatric Units and Hospitals 2016. July 2017.