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30th World Congress of the International Association for Suicide Prevention

Our Clients

  • Professor Siobhan O’Neill
    Ulster University

  • Barry McGale
    Suicide Bereavement UK; former Western Trust

  • Professor Rory O’Connor
    University of Glasgow

Event/Conference Name

30th World Congress of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP 2019) ~ Breaking Down Walls and Building Bridges



17th – 21st September 2019





Millennium Forum, St Columb’s Hall
& The Playhouse



5 days (17th half day & 21st half day)

Our brief

Objective was to bring the world’s leading conference on suicide prevention to Derry, a city which has had the highest rate of suicide in the UK. The client wanted the conference to become part of the community, be accessible to the community and make a lasting impression on the city of Derry.


Our approach

How we undertook the brief and won the bid was by telling Derry’s story, about how the city has been transformed from ‘The Troubles’ to now become an accessible city that we wanted to showcase to the world. We also wanted to tell the story about how Derry’s past has had an impact on the rate of suicide in the city and how the conference could leave a lasting legacy in the city and have a big impact. We had a lot of competition for the event with Rome, Vienna and Piran also submitting very strong bids. However, with our story, our ‘Just Say Yes’ bid video and the passion of our committee, the bid was successful. The aim of the local organising committee was to highlight the ‘all Ireland’ approach and thus not only people from Derry were involved but also from Cork, Belfast and Dublin were invited to join the local organising committee.


Non-standard Procedures/Methods used


The whole city of Derry was very much involved in making the congress a success. The Arts Trail, Music Trail and public session (described in detail below), contributed to a great involvement of the local community. Furthermore press releases were issued, which got the media’s attention from both the UK and Ireland (e.g. BBC was present).


Our results


IASP 2019 attracted a total of 875 delegates from six continents and 52 countries, which was well above the expected numbers of 700 people.

The congress showcased the latest research and interventions for suicide prevention; and consisted of 9 pre-congress workshops, 49 symposia and 12 workshops. There was a total of 407 presentations, 227 of which were oral presentations, and 180 were poster presentations. The presentations covered a varied range of topics including the psychology of suicide, suicide prevention in young people, national suicide prevention strategies, working with particular population groups and how to deliver life-saving interventions to people who are at risk.

In addition to this, 28 well-known keynote speakers and 12 panel discussion speakers from all over the world presented their latest research.

The congress was the largest that Derry has ever hosted and in addition to the scientific presentations, the organisers had planned an exciting social programme, including an arts exhibition and music trail. The arts exhibition has been produced by ArtsCare NI, in collaboration with the Public Health Agency with an overall theme of recovery and hope. Five venues hosted free live music for delegates and members of the public, on the evening of the 18th and 19th September. The congress opening ceremony was hosted in the Millennium Forum on the 17th September, and this was followed by a civic reception in the Guildhall, where Derry’s mayor welcomed delegates, the majority of whom have travelled from overseas to attend the congress. 

The social programme incorporated local entertainment groups (harpist, traditional band (Patrick Danagher) and Different Drums) and it showcased the prestigious Guildhall (tourist attraction). The congress dinner was held in the Foyle Arena, which is a local sports hall. It had to be transformed into a gala dinner venue. In order to do this, we hired Libra Events who looked after the décor, catering, furniture and entertainment (Celtic Storm & DJ). Total numbers that attended were 360 people. During the congress dinner, local gins were on display and available for tasting.

Several tours & attractions in Derry and throughout Northern Ireland were available for delegates to book through the congress website.

As part of IASP 2019, the organisers were holding a Free Public Q&A session on Suicide Prevention on the 21st September. This was a unique opportunity to hear several key speakers from the Congress, giving members of the public an opportunity to hear their reflections on the latest research presented, and answer questions. The public session on Saturday afternoon was free to attend.

Tourism Northern Ireland estimated that IASP 2019 had an economic impact of approx. £1.5 million to the region. The very passionate and committed Local Organising Committee played a major role in the success of this event, in particular, the activity on twitter in advance around the hashtags #isap2019 created a great sense of importance around the event and no doubt led to an increase in delegate numbers.

What our clients said:


The conference Co-Chairs are Professor Rory O’Connor, University of Glasgow and Vice President of IASP, Professor Siobhan O’Neill, Ulster University, and Barry McGale, Suicide Bereavement UK.

Barry said:

“It was important to us that the conference had a lasting legacy in our city and we thought it was important that the public get this unique opportunity to hear from leaders in the field of suicide prevention”.

Siobhan said:

“NI has the highest suicide rates in the British Isles and it is vital that we learn from the scientific research on the topic so that we can apply this to our local setting. No one should die alone and in despair by suicide. The conference also represents an amazing opportunity to showcase our world leading local research on suicide prevention and inspire early career researchers to undertake work in this area.”

Rory said:

“As a native of Derry, I am delighted to bring the World Congress to Derry.  It is an incredible coup for the city as the conference is organised under the auspices of the International Association for Suicide Prevention, the leading international organisation dedicated to suicide prevention globally.  It is an exciting week for the city.”

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Michaela Boyle welcoming the conference to the city said:

“This conference will be hugely beneficial in not only showcasing the excellent, impactful suicide prevention research being done, but will also produce the positive benefits for those of you in this city and wider Council area who work so tirelessly to address this important problem. It is something that resonates with a lot of people in the city, district and beyond. We have felt the pain of suicide and events like this conference are essential in helping us save lives.”


From 17-21 September 2019, the 30th World Congress of the International Association for Suicide Prevention was held in Derry, Northern Ireland. This conference attracted over 870 delegates (the largest attendance to date) from 56 countries to discuss the latest research in suicide prevention, intervention and postvention.

None of this would have been possible without the expertise and professionalism shown by the Abbey Conference team. The theme for our conference was ‘Breaking Down Walls-Building Bridges’ and Abbey were the only conference organisers, whom we interviewed who totally understood the brief.

This understanding continued over the several years we were planning and was led by Louisa Fraederich and Greg Carew. Both Louisa and Greg’s knowledge and experience ensured all the delegates had an enjoyable and stimulating conference. The attention to detail and problem solving skills shown by Abbey lead to be to recommending them to others with no hesitation.


Barry McGale

Suicide Prevention Consultant and Trainer

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