External Affairs & Policy

Here you will find our mission and objectives, learn about External Affairs & Policy, our team and how we work.

REFOCUS Visit to National Forensic Mental Health Service Portrane, 23.02.24

The group visited the NFMHS in Portrane and received a fascinating presentation from Dr Stephen Monk and some of his staff on the functions of the hospital and the services they provide.

The group heard from a couple of ex-patients who spoke about their experience in the hospital and what it was like returning to society after leaving the hospital. We were the taken for a walk around the impressive new facility.

We then went to the Grand Hotel Malahide for lunch and a meeting together. Overall, it was agreed that it was a unique experience, and we were thankful for the opportunity.


REFOCUS Meeting 26.01.24

The REFOCUS group met on 26 January in the Aisling Hotel for a half-day meeting. Many topics of interest were discussed including:

  • The NCHD conference
  • Plans for World Mental Health Day
  • The potential value of the group meeting medical students who are considering doing psychiatry as a specialty
  • Individual Care Plans
  • The group’s upcoming visit to the National Forensic Mental Health Service Portrane.
  • A brainstorm session exploring what is needed most when people are unwell.

It was a lively and productive meeting followed by an enjoyable lunch together. We also made a couple of short videos where group members described the value they get from being part of REFOCUS.

REFOCUS group image


The College REFOCUS group, now in its 12th year, continues to evolve and strengthen its remit of bringing a lived experience perspective to all College objectives, business and activities. Such is the demand for REFOCUS members, and the work they carry out, that additional people are needed for the group and we are currently recruiting for patient/service users, family members/carers and psychiatrist members.

More information on recruitment to REFOCUS is available here.


Spring Conference 2022

For the College Spring conference 2022, REFOCUS planned and presented a main plenary session titled “Keeping the Body in Mind: Members of CPsychI REFOCUS (Recovery Experience Forum of Carers and Users of Services), Psychiatry, General Practitioner and Endocrinology come together to discuss shared care and physical health in mental illness”

This interactive and engaging session weaved together lived and professional experiences of the management of physical health in people with mental illness. One in four of us will experience mental illness in our lifetimes, and as such, it was hoped that this session would be of interest to anyone living with, managing or indeed treating mental illness.

The three part session featured contributions from an experienced General Practitioner who is also a caregiver for a daughter with schizophrenia; discussion with three members of the CPsychI REFOCUS group; and a further teaching session on shared care and the management of diabetes by Consultant Endocrinologist who has a special interest in mental illness.

Read a breakdown of the three parts of this session below.

Part 1: Dr David Shiers in conversation with Dr Caragh Behan – “A conversation with a demanding caregiver; the role of advocacy in challenging the health inequalities experienced by people with severe mental illness”.

Part 2: REFOCUS members Mr. Brian McNulty, Mr. George Bridges and one other, in conversation with Dr Mia McLoughlin – “A conversation on the challenges and barriers to good physical health and living well with mental illness; and the impact that communication, integration of services and personal empowerment have when managing physical health co-morbidities and side-effects of medication”

Part 3:  Dr David Hopkins, Endocrinologist and Diabetes Specialist, King’s Hospital , London “Modern treatment of and models of care for Diabetes, Mental Illness and associated health inequalities”


In a positive and long-hoped for development, the College Council officially accepted the Non-psychiatrist joint chair of REFOCUS as voting member of Council and thereafter, Brian McNulty attended his first meeting of same, in Feb 2022.

Planned Activity

Ongoing plans to create and film a suite of video aimed at information for Psychiatrists, on the topics of ‘Psychiatric Diagnosis’ and ‘Family Dynamics’, will be progressed in Summer 2022.

Diarmaid Ring

In June 2021, a meeting was dedicated to marking the sad passing of Diarmaid Ring, a founding REFOCUS member and active Joint-Chair. Committee members remembered Diarmaid’s vast contribution to mental health advocacy and service user empowerment, both within REFOCUS and the College, and the wider landscape in Ireland and internationally and the group continues planning on initiatives that will officially commemorate Diarmaid’s life and work.


The first in-person meeting of the group since March 2020 took place in October 2021, held in a socially distanced manner and hybrid format.

Spring Conference 2022

The group brainstormed, and drafted a proposal for a College conference session based on the topic of physical health in those with mental illness, which would involve experts with specific scientific/academic knowledge, supported by lived experience contributors from REFOCUS. Proposed topics to touch on included: reduced life-expectancy for those with serious/chronic mental illness and common physical co-morbidity; the management of side-effects of medication; social prescribing; artistic therapies; relationships with families and carers; specialist in endocrinology; input from the lifespan – physical health in children/teens/adult/older age etc.

Mental Health Commission

George Bridges and Brian McNulty were part of a Service User Advisory Group on restrictive practices, that looked at revising the codes of practice around same.

Joint Chair

Following an election process, Mr Brian McNulty was Elected as Joint-Chair of the group, alongside Dr Mia McLaughlin and will serve a term of two years.



Council Update by Dr Mia McLaughlin, Co-Chair

Discussion of emergency council meeting regarding COVID-19 and subsequent updates to College activities in light of the pandemic.

Update on College Activities

Website update including information on the COVID-19 pandemic, including College-specific updates for members/trainees, as well as resources for the public and links to external tools and information. EAP department working with a number of consultants on a video series titled “Supporting Families of Young People with Mental Illness during COVID-19”. The series currently covers depressive disorders, eating disorders, Autism, ADHD and Intellectual disability.

Discussion of Telepsychiatry

Concerns that access to and knowledge of technology is not equal across households. Telepsychiatry has limitations which we are seeing now in practice and does not substitute for face-to-face consultations.

Online Family Resource MHI/HSE Department of MH Engagement and Recovery

Project in beginning stages, with REFOCUS appearing to be the main contributor. The page may be better housed on the CPsychI wesbite (rather than the HSE as proposed) as we would have control over the content and ability to create a more dynamic, user-friendly page. Will feedback to suggest one portal with branding of all three groups, shared ownership.



Presentation by Dr Tiago Miguel de Castro Gomes

Dr de Castro Gomes, member of REFOCUS and the Trainee Committee, gave a presentation on the work of the Trainee Committee, its membership, activities and some of the challenges Psychiatry trainees face.

Psychiatric Diagnosis and Family Dynamics

Groups met separately to organize main talking points and key messages of upcoming videos, which will be filmed and edited in-house by College EAP Department members.

Monetary Impact of Mental Illness: Next Steps

Following successful feedback on the Monetary Impact workshop, it was agreed that the workshop should be run again, potentially in Waterford in late May or early June. The EAP department will look into funding and venue availability.



Presentation on EAP Department Activities

Andrea Ryder and Karen McCourt discussed the recently completed projects by the EAP Department, including:

      • The passing of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act as part of the steering group of the Alcohol Health Alliance.
      • Two reports in collaboration with Family Carers Ireland on assessing the burden of caring, with a focus on the health and wellbeing of family carers.

Working Group Projects

The Monetary Impact of Mental Illness group have been meeting separately to help plan and discuss the programme for the upcoming symposium on 23 January. For the Family Dynamics and Psychiatric Diagnosis groups, it was agreed that a collaborative proposal template must be drawn up for both groups to go to management and the finance committee of the College, as this all needs to be approved before any in-depth discussions of the content of these videos can take place.



Presentation by Dr Bobby Smyth

Dr Bobby Smyth met with REFOCUS members to present on his experience using Telepsychiatry (video consultation) whilst working in Queensland, Australia. He also discussed his involvement in pilot schemes for this technology in Ireland. Telepsychiatry services increase the accessibility of psychiatry services to those in rural and remote areas. Dr Smyth outlined the potential benefits, challenges and considerations of the telepsychiatry model.

Working Group Projects

More work was done on the Family Dynamics and Psychiatric Diagnosis projects, while a separate meeting for the Monetary Impact of Mental Illness Workshop was to be scheduled in order to plan for the symposium.



Presentation by Maeve Doyle

Maeve Doyle met with REFOCUS members in her capacity as the newly appointed Director of External Affairs and Policy for CPsychI and Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist to discuss CAMHS.

Working Group Projects

The group reviewed three ongoing subgroup projects, including Monetary Impact of Mental Illness Workshop, Family Dynamics and Psychiatric Diagnosis.



Monetary Impact Project Meeting

The REFOCUS Committee met to discuss the next steps of their Monetary Impact Project. The aim of this project is to help psychiatrists be aware of the financial impact of having a mental illness and how psychiatrists can help them, specifically in relation to three key areas: Disposable income, Employment, and Housing.



December Committee Meeting

REFOCUS Committee 14th December 2018

At the December REFOCUS meeting the Committee bid farewell to Dr Anne Jeffers who retired as REFOCUS Co-Chair. Dr Jeffers founded the REFOCUS committee in 2011. The committee wishes to acknowledge her tireless commitment to the group, without which there would have been no REFOCUS. The committee is pleased to welcome Dr Mia McLoughlin as the new Co-Chair.

Spirituality Paper

REFOCUS have been working on a paper on Spirituality entitled “Spirituality and its place in Mental Health Practice: Raising Awareness and being Mindful of Bias” and reviewed a video from RCPsych. They agreed this video is a fantastic encapsulation of what they aim to discuss in their paper.

REFOCUS at Mind Reading – Mental Health and the Written Word Conference 2018, Birmingham, UK

FROM L-R: Christine McCabe, Brian McNulty, REFOCUS co-chair and co-ordinator, Dr Anne Jeffers,  Julie Healy, Rick Rossiter




Foundation Year Induction Programme

The College hosted its first week-long Induction Programme for Foundation Year trainees. The aim of the programme was to provide new Doctors with the skills and knowledge required, at an early stage of their careers, to address their confidence and psychological well-being, and issues of patient safety. Dr Anne Jeffers, consultant psychiatrist, Clinical Lead for the National Clinical Programme for the Assessment and Management of Patients who present to the ED following Self Harm, and joint chair of CPsychI REFOCUS Committee, provided Suicide Response training, which covered safety plans, mitigation strategies, and information on on-call assessment, amongst other areas, both at a national and individual level. REFOCUS member Mr Rick Rossiter also contributed to the workshop alongside Dr Anne Jeffers by sharing his experience of living with mental illness.

REFOCUS also held a plenary session where Dr Verena Keane was joined by Mr Rick Rossiter and Mrs Julie Healy who described the work of REFOCUS, discussed the value of family involvement and issue of confidentiality and spoke of their lived experiences as service user and family carer.

“Communication bridges the gap between psychiatrists, services users and carers & the sharing of experiences of carer and service users is very useful and enlightening.” – Trainee feedback on REFOCUS plenary presentation

Psychiatry Summer School

Medical students and Interns from across the country were welcomed by the College to the Psychiatry Summer School for an insight into the varied career opportunities that lie within the many psychiatric specialties and subspecialties – areas of interest which are often not covered in Undergraduate teaching. Students heard from REFOCUS members Laura Louise Condell and Julie Healy on the affect psychiatry has had on their lives as people with experience of using the mental health services and as a family member of someone with experience of the services.

l-r Laura Louise Condell (REFOCUS), Julie Healy (REFOCUS), Christine McCabe (REFOCUS Co-Chair) at the CPsychI Psychiatry Summer School 2018




Five members of REFOCUS attended the two-day Mind Reading conference in Birmingham University, which was a joint collaboration between the University of Birmingham, UCD Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Diseases of Modern Life and Constructing Scientific Communities Projects at St Anne’s College, Oxford. They spoke about their experience of mental illness and caring for someone with a mental illness and the effect literature has had on this part of their lives. This is the second Mind Reading conference REFOCUS has been involved with and REFOCUS hopes to be involved again next year.

REFOCUS members with Mind Reading Conference organisers

Pride Month

Laura Louise Condell, REFOCUSer and coordinator of the Dublin Lesbian Line, talks to the College about talk mental illness, mental health, and being part of the LGBT community. You can listen to the interview below or read the full interview here.

Living Library for Green Ribbon Month

REFOCUSer Rick Rossiter spoke about ‘A Father’s Confession’ where he shared his lived experience with bipolar and borderline personality disorder and his own suicide attempt which had a profound affect on his father, a fact he subsequently learned 30 years later. Louisa Corr also spoke of her experience as a family member who supports someone with a mental illness. This was part of the ‘Living Library’ in Stephen’s Green as part of Green Ribbon month which aimed to challenge the stigma of speaking about mental health difficulties and to encourage an important mantra ‘Don’t Judge A Book by Its Cover’.

l-r Dr Sarah O’Dwyer, Mr Rick Rossiter, Dr Miriam Kennedy at the ‘Living Library’ 2018



REFOCUS presentations

REFOCUS members presented at Shine ‘Recovery and the Family’ Conference on May 20th.

REFOCUS member Rick Rossiter participates in the annual CPsychI Walk and Talk with psychiatrists in St Stephen’s Green as part of Green Ribbon month, in collaboration with See Change.



REFOCUS host workshop at Mind Reading – Mental Health and the Written Word

Over 50 people gathered in the LexIcon Library main auditorium to attend the REFOCUS workshop as part of the Mind Reading – Mental Health and the Written Word Conference on March 10th in Dun Laoghaire. To read more about the workshop by REFOCUS please click here.



REFOCUS Presentation

Four REFOCUS members sit on two discussion panels at the annual joint conference with Shine Click here to read more about the conference.




To read about the 3rd Quarter 2016 meeting click here

For REFOCUS Committee Activity 2015 click here




The group welcomed 3 new members to the group and shared their valuable insights into their own lived experiences with the Mental Health Service.



New members for REFOCUS sought

The group is currently recruiting new members and invites expressions of interest. The deadline for applications is 14th August 2014. Please find further details here.



REFOCUS at NCHD Conference 2014

Dr Anne Jeffers, Ms Jeannine Webster and Mr Diarmuid Ring recently spoke at the College’s Annual NCHD Conference. Presenting “On Learning from the Patient”, they spoke with valuable insight on engagement with service users and their families, and on their own experiences of recovery respectively.



Recovery paper launched

The group presents their latest paper, “On the One Road to Recovery”, launched at the College’s Winter Meeting, November 2013, by a service user sub group of REFOCUS. In this paper, the group use their experience to help trainee psychiatrists, and to help to all who experience mental illness and to their families. Please click on the link below to read.

REFOCUS workshop at Spring Conference 2013

Partnership and Sharing Approaches – Who Cares? The Carer Perspective for Psychiatrists

Prepared by carers’ subgroup of REFOCUS CPsychI with a foreword by Dr Anne Jeffers, Director External Affairs & Policy 2013. This paper was launched at the College’s Spring Conference 2013, in conjunction with a workshop, “Partnership and Sharing Approaches- Who Cares? The Carer Perspective for Psychiatrists“. Please find photos here.

REFOCUS Media Coverage

Brian McNulty & Anne Jeffers on Ireland AM from College of Psychiatrists.