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Spotlight on mental health nursing for inaugural awareness day

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The invaluable work of mental health nurses is taking centre stage today in the first ever national celebration of the speciality.

Mental Health Nurses’ Day aims to increase public awareness of what the role actually involves by promoting positive stories from those in the job, in turn dispelling outdated and damaging perceptions.

“I’ve been privileged to work with many exceptional, compassionate nurses”

Liz Durrant

The campaign launched by the Royal College of Nursing’s Mental Health Forum is also a chance for people to share messages of thanks to those on the frontline.

Organisers hope the initative will help to encourage more people to join the profession amid widespread concern about declining workforce numbers, despite mental health care being set as a national priority. 

The number of mental health nurses on the Nursing and Midwifery Council register fell from 90,693 to 88,821 between 2014 and 2018.

Ed Freshwater, chair of the RCN Mental Health Forum, said the purpose of the campaign was to “celebrate, describe and promote” the role of mental health nurses.

He told Nursing Times in an interview earler this week that the speciality was often depicted as “scary” and that was a lack of understanding about the role, noting how the most famous mental health nurse to many people was still the evil Nurse Ratched from the 1975 film One Flew Over The Cuckoo Nest. 

Social media has come alive with support for the initiative demonstrated by the hashtags #MHNursesDay and #MentalHealthNursesDay trending on Twitter, meaning they are among the most frequently used today.

The new chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, Andrea Sutcliffe, took the opportunity to thank the mental health nurses who cared for her brother. “I’ve always been grateful for the care #MHNurses gave my brother when he was ill,” she wrote on Twitter.

Andrea Sutcliffe

Andrea Sutcliffe

Andrea Sutcliffe

Clare Parker, executive director of nursing, healthcare professionals and quality governance at Pennine Care, gave a “shout out” to the mental health nurses working at the NHS trust, adding: “You are all amazing and make a difference each and every day.”

Lucy Colwell, senior lecturer in mental health nursing, posted: “I came to mental health nursing in 1994 through a commitment to being a witness to injustices that perpetuate suffering and a desire to alleviate that suffering. [I] could not be more proud to work alongside so many who share these values.” 

Liz Durrant, mental health director of Certitude, a not-for-profit care provider in London, wrote: “I’ve been privileged to work with many exceptional, compassionate nurses over the years - it’s a great profession, especially as you get to work alongside people with mental health needs who are inspiring and humbling.”

dave munday cropped

dave munday cropped

Dave Munday

David Munday, a nurse and lead professional officer for mental health at the union Unite, used the day to announce that he had been asked by NHS Improvement to sit on the nursing and midwifery subgroup of the NHS workforce implementation plan team. He said he would be “banging the drum” for mental health nurses.

Meanwhile, healthcare organisations and universities are utilising Mental Health Nurses’ Day to encourage people to take up vacant posts or start their journey to becoming a mental health nurse.

Committee members from the RCN Mental Health Forum will host a Twitter chat tonight between 7-8pm.

The inaugural Mental Health Nurses’ Day will serve as a pilot with the hope of it becoming an annual campaign.

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