Events, seminars and conferences.

As a passionate and renowned activist, industry thought leader and acclaimed expert in mental health & psychology, Joan Freeman BA. MSc. Psych Hon. LL.D, has gained plenty of experience sharing her views and addressing major issues on the topics in various media settings, online channels and as a keynote speaker at a wide range of events, seminars and conferences.

An experienced, driven, and passionate social activist with almost 20 years of experience as a leader in the area of mental health, Joan is known nationally and internationally, originally as a social entrepreneur, having grown Pieta House into one of the leading mental health organizations in Ireland with over 180 employees, then more recently as a Senator in Dáil Eireann and Presidential Candidate. 

"Her charisma and passion have helped communities"

A trusted, credible professional with excellent communication and delivery skills, Joan is driven and detail-oriented with the ability to thrive in high-pressure environments. During her time at the helm of Pieta House, Joan pioneered the launch of the now globally-renowned Darkness Into Light movement which has raised over €25 million to support those who suffer from suicidal ideation, self-harm, and those who have been tragically bereaved by suicide. Joan’s ability to garner such steadfast support and unwavering loyalty to this singular objective is second to none. Her charisma and passion have helped communities – and countries – to come together to support an often heavily stigmatised cause.

In 2016, Joan’s calibre as a national leader in mental health was recognized by being nominated by the Taoiseach to become a Senator in Seanad Eireann as a voice for mental health in Ireland. Not only did this role include highlighting issues through all media platforms but also led to being elected as Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee of Future Mental Health and successfully delivered two pieces of important legislation to positively impact mental health practices in Ireland.

Achievements & Awards

  • Pioneered the international flagship event for Pieta House, ‘Darkness into Light
  • Tatler ‘Woman of the Year’ (2016) 
  • Recipient of ‘People of the Year Award’ (2011)
  • Honorary Doctorate (LLS) for her work in creating Pieta House and for being a national and international activist for Mental Health (2019) 
  • Recipient of the Top 25: Ireland’s Most Powerful Women Awards (2018
  • Recipient of the Top 25: Ireland’s Most Powerful Women awards (2018)
  • Trailblazer Award’ (2016)
  • SHEMAZING Special Recognition Award’ (2016)
  • Published Author – “Cover Up: Understanding Self-Harm”

Recent Events

  • Irish American Partnership’s Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Christmas) Celebration, in Washington D.C. on 14th January 2020 
  • Digital World: Opportunities for Mission’ Seminar on 29 May in Renehan Hall, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth 
  • World Assembly for Women Conference, Japan May 2019
  • Love Actually Talks 2019
  • Second International Forum “Development of Parliamentarism” Moscow, 30 June – 3 July 2019                   
  • Annual Scouting Conference, Scouts Ireland  
  • Image Magazine Business Women Conference  
  • Waterford Chamber of Commerce
  • National Advocacy Conference
  • Network Ireland Conquer Your Summit Event 2018
  • Foroige Youth Leadership Conference

Joan’s Background

Joan Freeman was born in Dublin in the 1950s, a middle child in a family of eight children. She started her counselling experience with pharmaceutical giant Accord, and loved working with married couples. After a personal tragedy, she noticed there was a huge lack of suicide prevention services in Ireland, and went about establishing the country’s only organisation providing a free, professional, face to face, therapeutic service for people in the acute stages of distress. In 2006, she set up Pieta House, the Centre for the Prevention of Self-harm or Suicide.

The stigma of mental ill-health is gradually being lifted, and there is no doubt that Joan’s work with Pieta House has contributed greatly to that.

Having brought the service to such great heights, and helping thousands of people in suicidal distress, Joan switched her focus and brought the wonderful work of Pieta House to the US, opening up Solace House in 2017. 

Joan immediately knew that her focus would be in mental health and the associated challenges we face in Ireland. By staying centred and committed to this difficult topic, especially around services for children’s mental health, Joan realised her passion was to act as a voice for the most vulnerable children in our society. Her numerous achievements in her first 18 months as a Senator include holding a public consultation on mental health, inviting the parents of children using mental health services, and those who provided these services, to have their say. Joan was responsible for creating a joint Oireachtas committee on mental health, the first of its kind in the history of the State. One of her most recent achievements include an amendment to legislation that will make it illegal to place children in adult psychiatric wards.

The stigma of mental ill-health is gradually being lifted, and there is no doubt that Joan’s work with Pieta House has contributed greatly to that. Joan regularly speaks to groups and organisations around the country, promoting tolerance and educating people around suicide and self-harm.

If you are interested in having Joan speak to your publication or at your event please contact