Contributor corner: Mary O’Hara

mary-oharaMary O’Hara is an award-winning social affairs journalist and author of the book Austerity Bites. She writes for publications including The Guardian and The Observer and appears regularly on broadcast outlets and other forums in the USA and UK. Mary was educated at St. Louise’s Comprehensive in Belfast and at Magdalene College, Cambridge where she read social and political science.

In 2010 she was an Alistair Cooke Fulbright Scholar at UC Berkeley, California where she conducted research on press coverage of mental illness and suicide. She authored the most recent Samaritans’ Media Guidelines on reporting suicide, is a fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts and is a trustee of the charity Arts Emergency. Mary is currently a communications lead for Fulbright/TedX in Southern California and writes a monthly social policy column for The Guardian: Lesson From America. She was Special Rapporteur for the European Day of Persons with Disabilities 2014 and will reprise the role in 2015.

Twitter: @maryohara1

What is your feature about?

In the wake of the financial crisis of 2007/2008, numerous questions have arisen around the impact of economic downturns and austerity policies on people’s mental wellbeing. My article takes an in-depth look at the some of the key issues, including any connection between austerity policies and suicidal behaviour, drawing on empirical evidence and research from around the world.

What did you learn that you didn't expect?

The most illuminating thing I learned in this process, apart from how complex the links between mental health and financial and economic problems can be, is that when it comes to the fallout of the ‘Great Recession’ and austerity for public health it is likely to be many years before the true impact can be fully calculated.

Read Mary's article on Mosaic from 6 October 2015.