Mental Health Nursing

Our post today is another (incredible) guest blogger. She is talking education, communication and understanding when it comes to mental health and her role as a nurse. It is anonymous to protect her privacy. As mental health week comes to a close, let’s keep talking mental health and continue to take care of each other! Happy Friday!

Happy mental health week!

What do you think of when someone says, “I’m a nurse”? I know that before I went to nursing school I thought of the classic Florence Nightingale, a caring woman who holds hands, gives out medication, changes bedpans, helps people stand, etc. I think it is understandable then, that when people ask me what I do, I feel the need to elaborate. There are so many kinds of nursing, so many designations, specialties, and region specific roles that it’s hard to keep them straight. I am a registered nurse who works within the field of psychiatry. I have a BScN (RN) in Nursing, a post graduate certificate in mental health nursing, and a Canadian designation as a Certified Mental Health and Psychiatric Nurse – CMHPN©, and currently am pursuing my masters in program development in nursing and health care; ridiculously complex, right? And given that this is just one person’s career, it’s hard to wrap your head around the many kinds of nurses out there.

I work primarily with children, adolescents, and their families; I have practiced in the community, forensic units, inpatient psychiatric units, and emergency. I complete biopsychosocial psychiatric assessments, emergency follow up assessments, injections, medication check ins/follow ups, as well as a number of other functions which are consultation/administration/case management of clients.

What are all of these assessments? They are discussion, I need to be what the client needs in that moment. Sometimes I refer to it as acting, after introductions and pleasantries are exchanged you feel the room and you respond accordingly. One teen may need someone empathetic, soft spoken, who provides gentle encouragement, while the next may need someone who is firm, straightforward, and not afraid to redirect the conversation when required. When completing these assessments, I’m gathering information about all of the domains of life to find out how well the person is adjusting to whatever is causing them issues, and if it is causing them problems with their basic functioning (ie. sleeping, eating, school, work, relationships). I’m assessing if someone is suicidal, and if so what that means to that person, are they pondering or fantasizing about death, or have they decided that it is time to die and they know how they will do it. How are they handling this? How are they coping? Are they utilizing health outlets like positive social relationships, or do they have maladaptive coping skills like self-harm or drug use? 

This information collecting isn’t just a question and answer, it is a conversation, an easy and logical flow of dialogue between myself and the person which should result in them being heard, validated, reassured, or, when necessary, called on for inappropriate behaviour. Further, it’s about educating parents so they can understand why their child might behave the way that they do. I have counselled parents during the middle of the night, after their child attempts suicide, and I’ve also counselled distraught parents when they learn that their child is cutting, or was arrested, or was intoxicated. Most importantly, I must relate, and I have to speak clearly and provide hard copies of information for parents as the next day they are likely to have forgotten everything we discussed during their time of high stress.

I think one of the most important parts of my job, which is never in a job description, is increasing education and understanding of mental health. The more people understanding that cutting may be a teenagers way of coping, or that depression and anxiety aren’t something that can just be ‘turned off’, and that someone with psychosis is not actually dangerous, then I am doing my job no matter where I’m working. Lastly, never be afraid to ask someone if they are thinking about suicide, it won’t cause any detriment to them, and they will be so thankful you asked.

Happy mental health week all, take care of yourself and listen to the people around you.

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