James O'Connor pictured with IACP Cathaoirleach Séamus Sheedy.

Tullamore mental health advocate wins national Public Inspiration Award

Mental health activist and founder of Accessible Counselling Tullamore (ACT), James O'Connor recently received the 2022 Public Inspiration Award from the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP.)

The award recognises an individual's advocacy for increased access to mental health services for all.

James has been an Ambassador for See Change since 2015 and he campaigns for greater access to counselling and psychotherapy. He also speaks publicly about the benefits of counselling and psychotherapy and draws attention to the positive work of IACP members.

Commenting following the award recognition, James said:

“I really am shocked and humbled to receive this award. It means a lot to be recognised by the IACP and its members. Seven years ago, I shared my story of my own struggles with mental health and the response from people was overwhelming. Soon after I became an Ambassador for See Change and during the course of my role with them it became clear to me that lots of people were not in a position to access counselling / psychotherapy for a variety of reasons – cost, long waiting lists, disability access, and perceived stigma.”

James continued: “I am a firm believer that everyone should be able to avail of counselling and myself and my partner Lisa Guing. spent 18 months preparing to open Accessible Counselling Tullamore (ACT). I am a firm believer in surrounding yourself with people better than you and immediately recruited Seamus Sheedy as Clinical Director and Dympna Summerville as Co-ordinator. We could not have done any of this without the help and guidance of Josephine Rigney (Suicide prevention officer for Laois / Offaly).”

“I am very rigid by nature and like things done right and this is evident to everyone that visits ACT. The centre is purpose built, with seven counselling rooms, a board room, canteen and counsellor space. We currently have ten amazing volunteer counsellor / psychotherapists who are all accredited or working towards accreditation with the IACP.

"ACT offers accessible, affordable and timely counselling to people over 16 from all across the Midlands and has 1276 clients and provided almost 7,000 counselling hours since opening in January 2020. There is no I in team and so I would like to share this award with the wonderful team at ACT, who are the ones who really do all the hard work,” concluded James.

Speaking following the awards, IACP Chief Executive Officer, Lisa Molloy, stated:

“I would like to congratulate James O’Connor, our Public Inspiration Award recipient. The Public Inspiration Award Panel were extremely impressed with how James innovatively campaigns to encourage people to talk more openly about mental health through online blogs. James is also a See Change Ambassador and has been promoting the Green Ribbon Campaign since 2015. He is a very worthy recipient of the IACP Public Inspiration Award.”

James was previously selected as the 2021 Offaly Person of the Year.