Catriona O'Toole, Ireland

Catriona is making waves in Ireland, increasing trauma-awareness, weaving psychological theory with critical pedagogy perspectives, and establishing the future of school-based mental health promotion.

About Catriona O'Toole

How can education contribute to human flourishing and the creation of peaceful and equitable societies? Catriona has a special interest in childhood adversity and is dedicated to advancing trauma-informed practice in education, school wellbeing, mental health promotion, mindfulness and compassion. Her research focuses on whole-school approaches in mental health promotion and wellbeing. She won an award for her work in this area and recently received a grant from the Irish Research Council for the project ‘Sanctuary schools: Building capacity for trauma-informed practice in education’. 

Catriona has a background in psychology and helping troubled youths, and worked in the field of early childhood education in Ireland and the Netherlands. She is in the Department of Education at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, and is a member of the board of directors for the Kildare County Childcare Committee. Catriona’s writings include: ‘What kind of education system are we offering?’, ‘Time to teach the politics of mental health’, and ‘Towards dynamic and interdisciplinary frameworks for school-based mental health promotion’.


"Traditional psychosocial interventions teach important skill sets, but they take little account of children’s dynamic socio-cultural contexts. We must acknowledge the broader inequalities that are often a root cause of children’s distress. Critical pedagogies are committed to social justice goals, but these goals can be elusive and seem unworkable in practice. Let’s bring these two approaches into conversation; we can harness their respective strengths in ways that are faithful to the complex nature of children’s development and corrective of inequalities.