Inspire was established in Belfast in 1959 by Lady Margaret Wakehurst. Lady Wakehurst became a campaigner for mental health reform through her experience of supporting her son through his mental ill health. Shocked by the conditions in hospitals and the lack of support for people outside formal psychiatric settings, she was determined to improve the care available and change society’s attitudes to mental ill health.
The Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health (NIAMH) was the first of its kind and was set up by Lady Wakehurst despite strong opposition from her peers. These early founding principles of determination, care, support and inclusion are still at the heart of our work six decades later.
The innovative movement started by NIAMH and our first Beacon day centre in Belfast, spread across the region and the strength and impact of our work began to grow. Our services expanded to provide residential, therapeutic and community based support for people living with mental ill health, supporting recovery and empowering people to play a full role in society around them. Our expertise in supported independent living and inclusive community support, led us to develop services for people with intellectual disabilities and autism. In 2016 we opened our first service in Ireland and our name changed to Inspire to reflect our new areas of work and our all- island remit.
Our passion for our work and belief in what we do drove us to develop therapeutic and wellbeing services for people in workplaces, schools, colleges and universities. The establishment of our innovative social enterprise Carecall (now Therapeutic and Wellbeing Services) meant that we reached the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across Ireland from the day they start higher education to the day they retire. This area of our work confirmed our unique expertise in the field of trauma informed practice, providing support for people experiencing high levels of trauma in their workplaces and communities.
The story of our development is rooted in the strength of kindness and a belief in each person’s inherit uniqueness and ability. This approach shapes how we support people living with substance use issues. In 1979, twenty years after the formation of NIAMH, another group of passionate and committed parents, carers and professionals got together and formed the NI Community Addiction Service. NICAS (later Addiction NI) blazed a trail in terms of reshaping how addiction was viewed and how services were provided to people living with addiction, their families and the wider community. Addiction NI became part of Inspire in 2016 deepening our expertise and shaping our commitment to recovery focused support.
Over the years Inspire has grown and developed into one of largest providers of services in Ireland. Our campaigning role has led us to become a strong and influential organisation. And yet the values that shape us, our mission and our aim are still closely connected to that first community of people who wanted to improve the life of the people they loved, ensure society treated them fairly and support them to realise their full potential. Lady Wakehurst named our very first service Beacon because she wanted “a name suggesting light.” Six decades later are proud to be part of social movement that is shining a light of hope and changing the lives of thousands of people every year.
We have lots of work still to do.
We are team Inspire.