Inspire’s story began in Belfast, in 1959. Established by Lady Margaret Wakehurst, a campaigner for mental health reform owing to her experience of supporting a son through his mental ill health, the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health (NIAMH) was the first of its kind. Lady Wakehurst had been shocked by the conditions in hospitals and the lack of support for people outside formal psychiatric settings and resolved to improve the care available and change society’s attitudes to mental illness.

Lady Wakehurst pursued her vision in spite of strong opposition from peers and founded NIAMH according to the principles of determination, care, support and inclusion. This ethos remains at the heart of our work, six decades later.

The innovative movement that started with the opening of the first Beacon day centre soon spread across the region and the impact of our work began to grow. Our services have expanded to provide residential, therapeutic and community-based support for people living with mental ill health, supporting recovery and empowering people as they play a full role in society. Our expertise in supported independent living and inclusive community support later led us to roll out services for people with intellectual disabilities and autism. In 2016, we opened our first service in Ireland and changed our name to Inspire, thus reflecting our new areas of work and our all-island remit.

Our passion for, and belief in, what we do drove us to develop therapeutic and wellbeing services for workplaces, schools, colleges and universities. The establishment of our innovative social enterprise, Carecall (now Therapeutic and Wellbeing Services), meant that we were able to reach hundreds of thousands of students and workers in all parts of Ireland, from the moment they start higher education to the day they retire. This confirmed our unique expertise in the field of trauma-informed practice, providing support in professional and community settings.

The story of our journey is rooted in the strength of kindness and a belief in each person’s inherit uniqueness and ability. These things shape 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 practitioners formed the NI Community Addiction Service. NICAS (later Addiction NI) blazed a trail, reshaping the ways in which addiction was viewed by the public and pioneering the provision of services to individuals, 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.

Throughout the course of its life, Inspire has grown into one of largest providers of services in Ireland. Our campaigning role has made us a strong and influential voice. And, yet, the values that shape our mission and our objectives today are inextricably linked to the values that underpinned that first Beacon centre: to improve lives, ensure that people are treated fairly and create the conditions in which everyone may reach their full potential.

Lady Wakehurst named our very first service Beacon because she wanted “a name suggesting light.” Six decades later, we are proud to be part of a social movement that shines a light of hope and changes the lives of thousands every year.

We have lots of work still to do.

We are Team Inspire.