Connect Mental Health Live

Connect Mental Health Live

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Connect Mental Health Live

8th October 2016 @ 1:00 pm - 5:30 pm



1PM – 5.30PM

Empower the local community to maintain and improve each others mental health and well-being

After the success of last year Connect Mental Health is back with its aims to improve the awareness and understanding of mental health issues in the Donegal community.

There will be a range of activities taking place from Saturday 8th – Saturday 15th October across the south Donegal area.

These activities will of course include Connect Live – Inspire Hope, free community conference – which will take place right here in the Abbey Arts Centre on Saturday 8th October

This years lineup will include….



Alison Canavan is an award winning author of wellness book “Minding Mum” and a health and wellness coach. Having travelled the world as one of Ireland’s most successful international models for nearly two decades, in recent years she has devoted her time to her greatest passion: true health and wellbeing.

Helping people to join the dots with their health and wellbeing is Alison’s primary goal and passion which led her to create her new website Her interest in nutrition began in 2009 when she started studying Fitness Nutrition Coaching under NESTA (National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association), in the United States. She graduated with distinction in Nutrition and Health Coaching from Irish Institute of Nutrition and Health (IINH), where she is continuing her studies in Nutritional Therapy. Alongside that she has been studying for a Raw Foods Mastery level 3 at The Life Change Health Institute.

Alison has become a much sought after motivational speaker and regularly does talks on mental health and wellbeing in schools, corporates and events around the country and is a regular contributor to radio and TV shows nationwide.



In October 2010, stuck in a negative work environment, severely overweight, single, and feeling the world and would be better off without him, Breifne Earley made the decision to end his own life.

Less than five years later he was first across the finish line of the longest endurance sports event in the world, the 30,000km long World Cycle Race.

Breifne tells the extraordinary and inspirational story of how one man stepped back from the brink of suicide, redesigned his life and then spent sixteen months cycling through 27 countries on 5 continents with 3 robberies, 3 crashes and 44 flat tyres to become a living, breathing example of the life-saving message “It’s okay not to feel okay.”



Mr Donal Scanlan is the Project Manager for Mental Health First Aid Ireland.  MHFA is internationally available in over 23 countries with well over 1 million people trained worldwide.  Donal has worked as a mental health professional for over 15 years and has campaigned for mental health awareness, anti-stigma campaigns and well-being on local and national stages; talking regularly in schools, colleges and communities about his own mental health and well-being.  He is a regular contributor to Irish TV and print media and can regularly be found discussing mental health on social media.



Dr Keith Gaynor works as a senior clinical psychologist in the Outpatient Department of St John of God Hospital, Stillorgan. He specialises in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) treatments of anxiety and depression. Keith trained at King’s College London and University College Dublin. He has written widely in academic journals on the topic of CBT and is a regular contributor to the Irish media, including The Tubridy Show, Prime Time and The Irish Independent, on issues of mental health.



Kenneth Egan has competed at the highest level in his sport of amateur boxing, the pinnacle being the Silver medal at the Beijing Olympic Games 2008.

He has represented his country over 200 times. Kenneth has also had his fare share of adversity and struggled with alcohol addiction for many years whilst competing but ultimately came to an end when he faced his demons head on two years after his return from the games.

He has just reached his 6th year of sobriety on the 13th August this year. Sport, alcohol and drug abuse are very closely related and many athletes find it difficult to transit into retirement. Filling the void once occupied by the challenges of a chosen sport can be very difficult.

The “if I am not the athlete then who am I”? The re-adjustment to real ore can be very challenging.

The beauty of recovery is, as I once heard – “It’s an inside job” – meaning it starts with you.



For a living Robert is a motivational business consultant. This has brought him to businesses around the globe working with them on strategies to enhance their brand and to empower their workforce. He takes a no nonsense approach to personal development and holds tightly to the belief that the most common inhibitor to personal growth is our lack of vision.

His services have been used across a wide range of sectors including financial, telecommunications, legal, political, educational, the entertainment industry and manufacturing sector in fact pretty much anywhere where people form part of the equation. His communication style has made him a sought after speaker for conferences and seminars and he delivers his message of “easy to do” life changers with honesty and humour. That’s what he does for a living, but for a life he is “Dad” to five amazing young adults. Robert delights in sharing the lessons he has learned in life (through both good times and bad times) and is convinced that learning through laughter is a great recipe for change.

Having worked in the corporate world for over 30 years, his experience and knowledge of the pressures and pleasures of gaining a work-life balance have been a major part into his input on the Suicide or Survive Wellness Workshops. Robert shares his lived life experiences in the knowledge that it may enable another person struggling on life’s journey to take hold of their life reins and realise that they are the key to change or as he says “If it’s to be it’s up to me”



Cavan born Ruairí McKiernan is a multi-award winning social innovator, campaigner, speaker, and Presidential appointee to the Council of State. He founded the pioneering youth organisation and led it from 2004-2011. President Michael D Higgins appointed him to the Council of State in 2012, where he sits alongside the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and other public figures. Ruairí is a business graduate and a regular contributor to media outlets including RTE TV and TV3, national radio, and news outlets such as The Irish Times, The Irish Independent, The Irish Examiner, The Sunday Times, and the Huffington Post.

Ruairí is a regular speaker and guest lecturer at schools, colleges and conferences, covering topics as diverse as leadership, mindfulness, mental health, self-care, community engagement, youth empowerment, social innovation, and social justice campaigning. His work includes co-organising the Dalai Lama’s last visit to Dublin and providing free mentoring and coaching to young change-makers throughout Ireland. . In 2014 Ruairí was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research in Berkeley, California, which helped inform his work as a co-founder of the recently launched Uplift campaigning organisation. Ruairí is a board member of the Soar Foundation and an advisor to Niall Breslin’s (Bressie) website.

Ruairí contributed a chapter on meditation to Sr Stan’s new book, and had an essay in the book ‘Letters to America’. He is a recipient of numerous awards including a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Award, A Junior Chambers Ireland Award, and a Net Visionary Award. He is married to singer-songwriter Susan Quirke (Susie Q) who will soon record her first album. They live by the sea in Dublin and are passionate about living fearless lives.



Called ‘a true original’ by Glenn Patterson, Tara West had already established a career as an advertising copywriter in Belfast when she wrote her first novel, Fodder. The book was published by Blackstaff Press to widespread critical acclaim and established her reputation as a talented new Irish voice.

Her second novel, Poets Are Eaten as a Delicacy in Japan, was published by Liberties Press in 2013 and was described by Ian Sansom as ‘the funniest book written by a Northern Irish author this century’.

Liberties will publish her memoir about depression and recovery, Happy Dark, in 2016. Tara also runs memoir-writing workshops, and is passionate about helping others tell their story.

Tara has appeared at festivals including the West Belfast Festival, the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, the Belfast Book Festival, Aspects Festival Bangor, the Northern Ireland Mental Health Arts and Film Festival and the John Hewitt International Summer School.

She has an MA in Creative Writing from Queen’s University Belfast, is a member of the Society of Authors, and has received a number of Arts Council Northern Ireland Awards for her writing, including the sought-after Artists Career Enhancement Scheme. She lives in Co Antrim with her husband and daughter.