Critical Voices Network Ireland

Welcome to the Critical Voices Network Ireland (CVNI) website. For those of you already familiar with the work of the CVNI, welcome back! This website replaces the previous one, which was unfortunately hacked some time ago.

About the Critical Voices Network Ireland

The CVNI is a coalition of people with self-experience, survivors, supporters, practitioners, academics, and campaigning and advocacy groups, all interested in a mental health system based on choice, respect, dignity, non-coercion and principles of social justice. The CVNI advocates for a shift away from the current narrow focus on individual pathology in mental health practices, towards approaches which acknowledge and validate the complexity of human distress.

Background & Origins

Concerns continue to be expressed about the state of mental health systems in Ireland and internationally. Such concerns question dominant thinking and practice including coercion, lack of treatment choices, abuse of professional power, over-reliance on and excessive use of medication, discrimination and stigmatisation, inhumane physical conditions in hospital units and lack of meaningful community-based supports.  Questions have also been raised about the interests served by the adoption of so-called strategies of inclusion in mental health systems such as ‘user involvement’, ‘peer support’ and ‘co-production’.  

In an attempt to provide a broader platform to discuss and debate such concerns and share new initiatives and approaches, a series of annual critical perspectives conferences has been organised by the Schools of Applied Social Studies and Nursing and Midwifery University College Cork, Ireland, since 2009.  The conference, with an annual attendance of over five hundred delegates over two days, is considered one of the most significant events of its kind nationally and internationally, attracting speakers and delegates from across the continents. This annual conference is unique as it is a free event involving people from diverse backgrounds (self-experience, survivors, professionals, academics, carers) presenting, discussing and debating critical perspectives in mental health.

The Critical Voices Network Ireland (CVNI) was launched at the 2010 annual conference establishing a coalition of people with self-experience, supporters, practitioners, academics, and campaigning and advocacy groups. The network provides a democratic space open to everybody who is interested in critical mental health matters and in advocating approaches that acknowledge and validate the complexities of human distress.

About Us

This website has been developed and is maintained by Harry Gijbels and Lydia Sapouna who jointly organise the annual critical perspectives conferences since 2009 and have been instrumental in launching the CVNI in 2010.

Harry Gijbels is a retired mental health nurse and academic with over 40 years of experience in challenging mental health practices and education. He continues to be actively engaged, for example through his work with the Hearing Voices Network Ireland. Harry’s work in activism is informed and influenced by issues of power, human rights and social justice in mental health.

Lydia Sapouna is a Lecturer in the School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork, Ireland. Her teaching, research and community contributions are primarily in the area of critical mental health, education and practice. She is very interested in the politics of mental health and the role of social activism in changing power imbalances in mental health systems.

We welcome comments and contributions from people interested in the work of the CVNI and in enhancing and further developing this website. Please see contact details below.

CVNI Activities

The annual critical perspectives conference is one of the main activities of the CVNI. In addition to the annual conference, the CVNI organises occasional workshops and seminars on critical mental health matters. ‘Inspirational’, ‘mind- opening’, and ‘affirming’ are words which have consistently been used by delegates to describe their experiences of participating in CVNI events.  

Joining the CVNI

The CVNI maintains an email list of people interested in its work.  If you wish to be added to the email list please email Harry Gijbels h.gijbels@ucc.ie. The CVNI also has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. You can request to become a member of the CVNI Facebook group page and follow us on Twitter.

Get in Touch.

We welcome comments and contributions from people interested in the work of the CVNI and in enhancing and further developing this website. Please contact us using the form below.

2 + 1 =