As with everything else in 2020, the Mental Health Media Awards were a little different! However, we still managed to gather virtually to celebrate stories that reflect the challenges, lived experience and realities of people living with mental ill health. This year, the entries increased by over fifty percent, highlighting an increased interest in mental health-related content across Irish media despite a difficult year.

Led by Anton Savage, presenter and communications expert, the emotional ceremony saw powerful contributions from those who share their story and those who give them a platform.

MC Anton Savage kicks off the 2020 MHMA ceremony

Minister Mary Butler talks about stigma reduction in Ireland in 2020

Peter Feeney, Press Ombudsman and MHMA 2020 Judge spoke about the incredible challenge faced by the judging panel this year. He was impressed by the variety, depth and imagination shown across the entries, which made the selection process all the more difficult. He mentioned how important it is for journalists to resist engaging in stereotypes in their work and he was heartened to see this careful attitude reflected in every piece he reviewed. Peter said: “My hope is that this attitude will percolate through to all journalists, and result in our newspapers, our online publications, radio and televisions stations all being stereotype-free zones of informed and accurate reporting on mental ill health.”

This year, Headline was honored to welcome Mary Butler, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People to the ceremony. Minister Butler talked about the changing face of stigma reduction and prevention efforts in Ireland and how the media are an integral part of this. Commending the vital work of the nominees and winners, Minster Butler said: “In these extremely challenging times, it is so important to recognise and celebrate our successes.”  

Thank You

Journalists and producers may not often see the positive impact that their mental health content has on people living with mental health issues. Their work can help break down stigma and make those living with mental illness feel a little less alone. There was an uplifting video interlude at the mid-way point of the ceremony, during which a group of See Change Ambassadors shared their own first-hand experiences of the value of responsible reporting on mental health experiences.

Blessing Dada talked openly about the importance of the words we choose when discussing mental health: “When it comes to reporting about mental health, words are so important because they either reduce or create stigma.”

Sinéad Keating shared how supported she felt by seeing stories about mental health issues in the media: “When you highlight mental illness…it means that those of us who live with those illnesses are not the only ones talking about them, we’re not the only ones trying to convince people that those experiences are real.”

Eamonn Moloney reinforced how important it is for journalists and broadcasters to keep sharing and breaking down stigma barriers: “If your story or article helps one person, if it makes a difference for one person, then that’s what matters.”


The event this year had a noticeable impact on the mental health and media communities, which was visible across social media, with the #MHMA2020 hashtag trending at number 3 on Irish Twitter for several hours on the day of the ceremony.

John Saunders, Shine’s CEO, commented that everybody in attendance was united in the common commitment to reducing stigma around mental ill health. He congratulated all of the shortlisted nominees and winners, noting that they have all made a significant contribution to the national conversation on mental health. Opening the event, he also mentioned an exciting new initiative for 2021. Headline, in partnership with Quality Matters, is conducting research that will lead to the creation of practical guidance to address the current imbalance and misrepresentation of particular mental health experiences. This research and policy will be the first of its kind globally.

Also in attendance at the event were Caroline Norris and Derek Pepper from Shine, and Barbara Brennan, Shauna O’Connor, Emma Halvey and Carlagh Glennon from See Change. Ciarán Austin represented the National Office for Suicide Prevention, Headline’s chief funders. The Mental Health Media Awards Judging Panel for 2020 also attended.

Winners 2020

This year’s Mental Health Content – Digital Award went to Rory O’Neill/Panti Bliss for the podcast episode, ‘Pantisocracy: Breaking Secrets and Silence’. The judges felt that “the differing perspectives of contributors were simply captivating, and the conversations were handled with remarkable respect, empathy, compassion and humanity.”

Rory O’Neill accepts the award for the Digital category


Owen Ryan of the Clare Champion won the Local Print and Online Award for his report, ‘Importance of being Jamie’. Described by the judges as “beautiful and well-written”, this piece handles the experiences of transgenderism and mental ill health with great care.

The winners of the Mental Health Broadcasting – Short Form Award were Marian Malone and Matt Kelly for an episode of Nationwide which focused on the Kinvara Alive suicide prevention initiative. The judges felt this was “a positive and uplifting segment, the humanity of the response was admirable, and you are left with the feeling that any community could do it.”

The Headline Special Recognition Award recognises that impactful conversations about mental health are not just coming from media professionals, but also those outside the industry who are also contributing in a valuable and positive way. For speaking out her journey towards recovery from an eating disorder, the winner of this award was Sheila Naughton for her interview, ‘The Road to Recovery’ on RTÉ Radio 1, accessible on RTE player.

Sheila Naughton accepts the award for the Special Recognition category

The winner of the Mental Health Content – Special Interest category was Peter McGuire’s piece, ‘Speak or Survive: Does Ireland Write Off the Survivors of Sexual Violence?’ for The judges were especially impressed with the huge amount of research that went into this piece and the number and diversity of perspectives included.

Peter McGuire accept the award for the Special Interest category

For Mental Health Broadcasting – Long Form Award, the winners were Kim Bartley and Aoife Kavanagh for their Virgin Media Television documentary The Unteachables. The judges described it as “ultimately a story of hope and empowerment, where nobody is a lost cause”.

The winner of the Headline Student Journalist Award was Kathleen O’Sullivan, for her article Hooked on Painkillers: farming’s hidden addiction. The judges noted that this piece was “well-researched and demanded answers from policy-makers and service providers”.

The National Print or Online Journalism Award was won by Jennifer O’Connell for her article in the Irish Times, ‘There’s no deadline for healing’. Jennifer gave couples who had lost a child to miscarriage a platform to tell their own stories in a sensitive and compelling way. The judges felt that “you could really feel the parents’ emotions through these evocative stories”.

Jennifer O’Connell accepts the award for the National Print and Online category

The Voice Media Award category was developed and judged in collaboration with See Change – The National Stigma Reduction Partnership. It recognises the coverage that a broadcaster or publication has given to those with self-experience of a mental health difficulty. The winner of this category, The Irish Times, has demonstrated excellence in reportage and inclusion of those living with mental ill health.

The Headline Impact Award, which recognises the impact a content creator, commissioning editor, individual producer or programme has made on audiences’ mental health recovery, went to The Echo/ for their consistent coverage of a diversity of content around mental health and mental ill health. The judges noted a particular effort to highlight less commonly talked about mental health issues. For example, the presence of eating disorders among older men.

Full 2020 Shortlist with winners

Mental Health Journalism | National Print/Online

The forgotten children: growing up in the shadows of mental illness, Emily Hourican for Irish Independent

FactCheck: Is this widespread claim about the recent number of deaths by suicide in Ireland true? Lauren Boland for

‘There’s no deadline for healing’, Jennifer O’Connell for The Irish Times (Winner)

My battle with the final taboo of motherhood, Lisa Brady for Irish Daily Mail

Central Mental Hospital: ‘We tolerate a system that no other country would’, Cormac O’Keeffe for Irish Examiner

Mental Health Journalism | Local Print/Online

Johanne’s battle for a 10-year plan to save carers from overwhelming load, David Looby for New Ross Standard

Mental Health Issues ‘Central’ to Addiction, Ann Murphy for The Echo

Importance of being Jamie, Owen Ryan for Clare Champion (Winner)

Being there can be all someone needs, Siobhán Holliman for Tuam Herald

 It’s time to talk about maternal mental health, Emma Connolly for The Echo

Mental Health Broadcasting | Short Form

Who’s Listening? (Episode 5), Fionnuala Corbett for iRadio 

Men’s Health Focus on Northern Sound: Mental Health, Aaron McElroy for Northern Sound FM 

RTÉ Prime Time: In harm’s way, Isabel Perceval and Eithne O’Brien for RTÉ 

Interview with the Travelling Community, Alan Corcoran for South East Radio 

Nationwide: Kinvara Alive, Marian Malone and Matt Kelly for RTÉ (Winner)

Mental Health Broadcasting | Long Form

The Guards: Inside the K, Shauna Keogh on Virgin Media Television 

All About Autism, Kayte O’Malley on iRadio 

The Truth About Eating Disorders, Michelle Heffernan on Beat 102-103 

Laochra Gael – Diarmuid Lyng, Cormac Morel on TG4 

The Unteachables, Kim Bartley and Aoife Kavanagh on Virgin Media Television (Winner)

Mental Health Content | Special Interest

‘I don’t know how you’re even still alive’ – The ex-Ireland international who lived a nightmare, Paul Fennessy, for 

Speak or Survive: Does Ireland Write Off Survivors of Sexual Violence? Peter McGuire for (Winner)

It’s time to speak out: men suffer from eating disorders too, Neil Fox for Irish Independent

Life under lockdown as a mum to kids with autism, Kathy Donaghy for Irish Independent

Hooked on painkillers: farming’s hidden addiction, Kathleen O’Sullivan for Irish Independent

Mental Health Content | Digital

It All Works Out Podcast, Ciara O’Connor for A Lust for Life 

Pantisocracy with Panti Bliss, Rory O’Neill/Panti Bliss for RTÉ Radio 1 (Winner) 

Grief Encounters, Ian Doyle for Urban Media 

You OK?: Switching off our fight or flight response, Jan Ní Fhlanagáin for RTÉ 

Letters From Lockdown: Dear Dee, Shauna McGreevy and Kenny Mac Giolla Phádraig for RTÉ

Headline Voice Media Award in partnership with See Change

Laura Byrne,

Amanda Cassidy, Image Magazine

Paul O’ Neill, The Irish Times (Winner)

Headline Impact Award

Lochlann Scott, The Helplink Show

Damian Cullen, Health & Family Editor, Irish Times

Jan Ní Fhlanagáin, ‘You Ok?’ podcast, RTE

Maurice Gubbins, Editor, Echo Live Cork (Winner)

Ciara O’ Connor, ‘It All Works Out’ podcast, A Lust for Life

Headline Student Journalist Award

The Head, Heart and Soul of Dublin City [Segment], Colette Wrafter of IADT

Hooked on painkillers: farming’s hidden addiction, Kathleen O’Sullivan of University of Limerick (Winner)

FactCheck: Is this widespread claim about the recent number of deaths by suicide in Ireland true? Lauren Boland of Trinity College Dublin

Accidental Activist, Colm McSherry of NUI Galway

The challenges of facing the weight on the bar, Sam Cox of Trinity College Dublin

Special Recognition

Professor Kevin Sludds, interview on South-East Radio’s Morning Mix – Wednesday 9th September 2020

Jess McCaul, ‘Mental Illness and Coronavirus’ on

Sheila Naughton,The Road to Recovery’ interview on RTÉ Radio 1 (Winner)

Bronagh Loughlin, ‘I have mental health issues, but they don’t define me’, in The Irish Times

Aaron Hughes, ‘Clones man urges others to look after mental health’ interview on Northern Sound FM

Meet the Judges

Also involved in the judging process for the Voice Media Award, Impact Award and Special Recognition Award were Shauna O’Connor from See Change, Caroline Norris, Karolyn Ward and Derek Pepper from Shine and Rosa Kearns and Elaine Haskins from Headline.

Judges’ Comments

“There’s no deadline for healing”, Jennifer O’Connell for The Irish Times

“This in-depth piece gave couples who had lost a child to miscarriage a platform to tell their own stories…giving important focus to an experience that can sometimes be dismissed…”

Importance of being Jamie, Owen Ryan for Clare Champion

“It felt especially important that a piece on this topic appeared in a local paper, providing great exposure for the issues involved.”

Nationwide: Kinvara Alive, Marian Malone and Matt Kelly for RTÉ 

“It was the very ordinariness of it that made it such a good story.”

The Unteachables, Kim Bartley and Aoife Kavanagh on Virgin Media Television 

“The Unteachables was an impressively produced and very touching insight… Filmed over a year with remarkable patience and sensitivity…”

Speak or Survive: Does Ireland Write Off Survivors of Sexual Violence, Peter McGuire for

“Peter lifted the lid on an issue that you don’t often hear talked…This piece had an incredible amount of research put into it and featured the perspective of a great number and diversity of people.”

Pantisocracy with Panti Bliss, Rory O’Neill/Panti Bliss for RTÉ Radio 1

“This piece, which looks at stigma and its impact on mental health, featured great contributors, and was beautifully and professionally presented.”

Hooked on painkillers: farming’s hidden addiction, Kathleen O’Sullivan, University of Limerick 

“Key to the success of this piece is the excellent writing style, clear structure and carefully-used quotes…”