On 21 February, mental health nurses across the UK will encourage interest in their specialty, raising awareness and debunking stereotypes, as part of the second annual Mental Health Nurses’ Day.
Organised by the RCN Mental Health Forum, the day is partly a response to a drop in mental health nursing staff in the UK. According to NHS Digital data from May 2019, the total mental health nursing workforce has decreased by 10.6% since 2009.
The Mental Health Forum decided to do their bit to encourage new recruits by confronting issues that could stop some people from training as a mental health nurse.
“A lot of people say they don’t know what the job involves and don’t hear enough positive stories about the specialty,” says Ed Freshwater, mental health nurse and chair of the forum.
Ed and other forum members concluded that negative stereotypes of harsh nurses in mental institutions are still quite common, while personal stories about the rewarding nature of the role are left unheard.
“We thought: let’s have a day that captures all of the good stuff about mental health nursing,” says Ed.
On the day, most of the action will take place on social media. Forum members will be starting conversations on Twitter and Facebook; inviting questions from
the public and nursing staff in the hope of inspiring people to consider mental health nursing as a career.
“I hope there will be some patient and carer stories coming through, and questions from people who had never considered the field in the past,” Ed says.
Making a positive change
Ed and the other forum members hope that the day will also reveal the diversity of people already working in mental health nursing.
“It is a very broad profession,” Ed says. “The people who tend to do well have got really good people skills and really rich, diverse life experiences. They’re people who have seen something in the world and would like to make a positive change.
“You’ve got to be interested in other people. It’s not the kind of thing where you just turn up, put in the hours and go home. You have to invest an element of yourself into the role.”
Catherine Gamble, RCN Mental Health Professional Lead, says: “Raising the profile of our profession at a time when mental health is a UK-wide priority couldn’t be more timely.
“I hope organisations and individuals will consider ways to celebrate Mental Health Nurses’ Day as, every day, mental health nurses go above and beyond.