Mental Health Nurses Association (MHNA) Conference

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By Jennifer Springham, @jlspringham2
Joint Appointment: Lecturer in Mental Health and Practice Development Lead,
My Care Academy. 

This week the 
Mental Health Nurses Association took place, organised by David Munday and the MHNA team. The day included a bill of excellent talks by key people representing their organisations, highlighting the great work being done to improve practice in mental health care and the experience for people accessing services. Here is a brief summary with a few pictures and tweets from the day, as well as links to resources and the featured organisations.

Key speakers of the day

Vanessa Garrity (Healthcare consultant, @WeMHNurses coordinator and MHNA nursing journal editorial board member) opened the day with a talk about social media in nursing and professional practice. Twitter tips for new users were shared as well reasons why nurses should engage with social media, which is something I feel very passionate about. I can honestly say that Twitter has been a wonderful discovery, with opportunities for collaboration with other nurses & lectures on a global level as well as access to a vast pool of resources and information. 

Next up was Geoff Brennan (Executive Director of Starwards), always a treat to see him talk. Geoff is such a positive supporter of mental health nurses, and with the Starwards team, he works in partnership with staff from mental health wards, service users and carers to improve inpatient experiences and outcomes. You can find a great selection of resources and practical ideas on the Starwards website

Fionuala Bonner and Francis Beckett talked to us about the concept and importance of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), and it was really encouraging to see that there has been a massive growth in the number of people trained in mental health first aid, which has now reached over 900 employers in the UK. The University of Northampton has now embedded MHFA into their nursing curriculum, allowing students to develop the skills in responding to people experiencing mental distress.

We had an interesting talk by Andy Bell (Deputy Chief Executive of Centre for Mental Health) who spoke about the increasing disparity of physical and mental health, introducing new campaign Equally Well UK, a new collaborative to support the physical health of people with a mental illness.


After lunch, Hazel Cheeseman spoke about Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), a public health charity campaigning to eliminate harm caused by tobacco.  This provided the opportunity to reflect on the challenges around reducing smoking amongst people with enduring mental illness, and how staff can begin to support this in a non-judmental and compassionate way.

Merlyn & Nikki, researchers at Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, presented the work of their organisation, an independent charity working towards breaking the link between financial difficulty and mental health problems by conducting research and developing policy solutions. This was a really great resource to find out about, an organisation actively working towards helping people who experience financial hardship and mental health problems.


Next up we had Alan Simpson (Professor of Collaborative Mental Health Nursing at City University) presenting some worrying statistics regarding the decline in numbers of mental health nurses (10k RMNs leaving each year) and increasing vacant posts. However, it was rounded up with a really positive note, highlighting that mental health nurses are in fact skilled bio-psycho-social practitioners and nursing is a profession to be celebrated.
Slide from Alan Simpson’s talk

To close the day we had a talk by Sarah Cook, regional officer and lead health coordinator for Unite the Union, who spoke about the importance of unions and having a collective voice to speak out about the issues that matter to us.

Overall it was an inspiring and informative day, with an excellent selection of topics very much in keeping with a holistic assessment of needs. I left there feeling very proud to be a mental health nurse and teacher of future nurses.


Do you attend the conference? What were your favourite talks and take away messages from the event? Comment below.

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