Tag Archives: Perinatal Mental Health

Defending Mental Health in Nursing Education

NHS

The Guardian (UK ed), 29 Sep 2014

There was an article in The Guardian (UK edition) recently where a nurse described how ill-equipped they felt to support patients experiencing mental health difficulties. The article included the startling information that, “My nursing course, which I think was excellent, contained no more than three days structured education on caring for patients with mental health problems.”

Umm. That wasn’t an excellent nursing course. That’s a crap nursing course.

Look, us Aussies like to tease the Brits about their weather and cricket team every chance we get, but I’m not accustomed to criticising their nursing courses. The truth is, I do not know enough about nursing courses in the UK to hold any strong opinions about how good or bad they are.

That said, I wonder what the general public would think of hospitals being staffed by nurses who had undertaken, as reported, a three year nursing course that includes only three days of teaching in mental health. I am glad that doesn’t happen in Australia.

Dumbing Down is Dumb

Since July 2000 most of my work has been about supporting mental health care in the general health settings as Consultation Liaison CNC (more about that here) and as Perinatal Mental Health CNC (more about that here). These roles have direct clinical input, but also have a lot to do with supporting general nurses and midwives to feel more confident and become more skilled at providing direct clinical care to people experiencing mental health difficulties. It’s inevitable that they’ll need these skills – a significant proportion of people who access general hospitals and/or maternity services also experience symptoms of depression, anxiety etc. Dumbing-down mental health education for general nurses and midwives is dumb.

elistIn August 2012 a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructor proposed using MHFA as inservice education for hospital-based nurses. I mounted my high horse to defend the depth and quality of nursing education sprouting the opinion that MHFA is not suitable training for RNs. My rant went along the lines of it’s great training for many community and professional groups, but it’s inadequate for those working in health role. Undergraduate nursing programs have more than the 12 contact hours that MHFA offers, and we should re-awaken/build-on that education. Nurses in particular need to know a bit about:

  • symptom detection
  • meanings/implications of diagnostic groups
  • medication effects and side-effects
  • the biopsychosocial model of mental health
  • social determinants of health
  • risk assessment/management
  • emotional intelligence and therapeutic use of self

confpresTo give MHFA their due, they have never claimed their training to be an alternative to formal nursing education (others have). MHFA does a good job at informing first responders, but does not address mental health in a manner suitable for a frontline clinician. There is a community expectation that nurses and midwives will have a depth of understanding of mental health beyond that of the general community, beyond basic fist aid.

This conversation started off as a discussion in the workplace, then became a topic of discussion on the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses e-lists, then morphed into a conference presentation and, more recently, was articulated as this journal article:

Happell, B., Wilson, R> & McNamara, P. (2014) Undergraduate mental health nursing education in Australia: More than Mental Health First Aid. Collegian (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.colegn.2014.07.003

Happell, B., Wilson, R. and McNamara, P. (2014) Undergraduate mental health nursing education in Australia: More than Mental Health First Aid. Collegian (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.colegn.2014.07.003

Anyway, I guess there are two points to this blog post:

One: Quality Control
Let’s make sure that we continue to defend the quality and depth of undergraduate nursing and midwifery training in Australia. We must never let it slip like the UK example of just three days training in three years. That is woefully inadequate.

Two: Speak Up 
If you’re a nurse or midwife with strong opinions about a subject, it doesn’t hurt to discuss these opinions online. As per this example, a discussion held online morphed into a conference presentation and a journal article. For me, anyway, the difference between it being a rant and a paper was the interest and input from a couple of Nursing Academics: Brenda Happell (@IHSSRDir on Twitter) and Rhonda Wilson (@RhondaWilsonMHN on Twitter).

References

Happell, B., Wilson, R. L. & McNamara, P. (2013). Beyond bandaids: Defending the depth and detail of mental health in nursing education. Paper presented at the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses 39th International Mental Health Nursing Conference Perth, Western Australia, Australia. Abstract in International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, Vol 22, Issue Supplement S1, pp 11-12 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/inm.2013.22.issue-s1/issuetoc

Happell, B., Wilson, R. L. & McNamara, P. (2014) Undergraduate mental health nursing education in Australia: More than Mental Health First Aid. Collegian (In Press) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.colegn.2014.07.003

End

Thanks for reading this far. As always, your feedback is welcome in the comments section below.

Paul McNamara, 21st October 2014

Short URL: meta4RN.com/defend

Free Open Access Mental Health Education for General Nurses and Midwives #FOANed

If you’re a nurse or midwife, and own an internet-enabled device you have unprecedented access to information.

Information + motivation = education.

Borrowing from the very successful #FOAMed initiative, recently there has been a flurry of activity regarding Free Open Access Nursing Education (aka #FOANed).  That is:

Free
Open
Access
Nurse
education

The #FOANed hashtag makes it’s easy to share info and resources via social media. If you’re cruising Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or even Instagram, have a look for the #FOANed hashtag.

Still not sure what the #FOANed hashtag is all about? Perhaps it’s just easier to see for yourself via this Storify (click here).

Mental Health #FOANed

Anyway, in the spirit of #FOANed, here are four suggestions for free open access nursing education re mental health for general nurses and midwives (click on each picture for more info):

1. Physical and Mental Health Care via Australian College of Mental Health Nurses:

2. Mental Health Liaison in General Hospitals via New South Wales Health:

inkysmudge.com.au/eSimulation/mhl.html

inkysmudge.com.au/eSimulation/mhl.html

3. Perinatal Mental Health Training for Midwives via Monash University:

perinatal.med.monash.edu.au

perinatal.med.monash.edu.au

4. MIND Essentials via Queensland Health:

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list of the mental health #FOANed available online, but hopefully it’s enough to get you started if you’re looking for some CPD/info.

Please feel free to add your suggestions for other free open access nursing education re mental health in the comments section below.

Paul McNamara, 20th October 2014

Short URL: meta4RN.com/FOANed

Stay connected, stay strong… before and after baby

Copy of Stay connected, stay strong… before and after baby DVD on YouTube (33 minutes):

From the back cover of the DVD:

StayConnectedPregnancy, birth and parenting can be a very positive time, but sometimes it may not be how you expected it to be. Adjusting to life as a mother can be hard and make women feel down and distressed. In Australia, one in every six women experience depression during this time.

This DVD has been created to support Indigenous women, men and families understand the importance of good social and emotional wellbeing during pregnancy and beyond.

Going to get help might feel like the hardest part, but it is the best thing you can do for yourself, your baby and your family. Getting help early gives the best chance of a strong and healthy future.

YouTube URL: http://youtu.be/CLsjgw8pvOA

.

Why is the Video Online?

The video is online so that it can easily reach the target audiences: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders families, and those who support them. It is a great little video: not only does it have a very clear message that there’s no shame in asking for a bit of support, but it also looks and sounds great. My favourite thing is how the narration by Jasmin Cockatoo-Collins ties the whole thing together: even though a couple of dozen people appear on camera, Jasmin’s voice weaves the whole thing together so it kind of seems like one story. Well done to Jasmin and film-maker Jan Cattoni (Jan’s a nurse who became a film-maker).

Knowing that the video is so good that it should be shared is one thing, getting it shared is another.

Stay connected, stay strong… is available for free in Queensland and for $20 elsewhere, all you need is this PDF order form from the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health: http://www.health.qld.gov.au/qcpimh/docs/resource-order-form.pdf

youtube---the-2nd-largest-search-engine-infographicFar North Queensland residents can borrow the DVD from Cairns Libraries: link.

Queensland Health staff can access the DVD through the Queensland Health Libraries Catalogue: link

However, as accessible as all that sounds, the truth of the matter is that YouTube is the world’s largest video-sharing portal and the world’s second largest search engine. A video is not really accessible until it is online.

Now we can share the video using this link: http://youtu.be/CLsjgw8pvOA

Eek!

This is by far the riskiest thing I’ve done with my professional social media portfolio. I am not the copyright holder of this excellent short film: the Queensland Government is. Although I won’t make any money out of hosting the video, I might be subject to legal action. If there is a credible threat of legal action I will take the video down immediately. Another risk is that I might be inadvertently causing offence or distress to some person or organisation. This may mean that I will not be considered for future work in perinatal and infant mental health (perhaps funding for services will return to pre-July 2013 levels one day).

So, why take these risks?.

My agenda is simple: to demonstrate that social media can be leveraged as another channel for health promoting information. It’s something I started when working in perinatal and infant mental health in October 2011, as evidenced by this from my now-mothballed Twitter handle @PiMHnurse (now I use a less job-specific name: @meta4RN).

PIMHnurse

 

My big hope is that hosting Stay connected, stay strong… before and after baby won’t get me in too much trouble, but will serve as a spur for a more legitimate stakeholder to host the video on their YouTube or Vimeo site.

When that happens I will complete this post-script to the blog post:

Important Update DD/MM/YYYY:

Stay connected, stay strong… before and after baby is now hosted by [organisation name] at this web address: [web address]. The link and embedded video you see above are now from that site, and I have deleted the copy I posted on 7th June 2014 here: https://www.youtube.com/meta4RN

My intention in knowingly posting a video that I am not the copyright-holder of was to act as an agent of change. If I have caused harm or distress to any person or organisation I am genuinely sorry. That was not my intention.

End

That’s it. I’m feeling scared now.

Paul McNamara, 8th June 2014

Perinatal Mental Health Workshop Links and Resources

Previously for Perinatal Mental Health Workshops I have trickled-out the links and resources we refer to during the workshop via Twitter and Facebook.  It’s a nice idea, and has worked pretty well (for more information about this experiment in social media enhanced education please see the video below and/or this link: meta4RN.com/workshop).

However, it is pretty labour-intensive to pre-schedule each individual Tweet and Facebook post every time I facilitate a Perinatal Mental Health Workshop, so to save some mucking-around I’ll list the links and resources here.

The headings in red are not mutually exclusive – some links cross boundaries. The list/links will be updated PRN:

Guiding Clinical Practice

guidelines

2014 Cairns Perinatal Mental Health Workshops (follow the link for info about the workshops and for free registration) pmh.eventbrite.com.au

Australia’s Perinatal Mental Health Clinical Practice Guidelines www.beyondblue.org.au

Promoting Perinatal Mental Health Wellness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities (PDF from the book Working Together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice; chapter 16 by Sue Ferguson-Hill) aboriginal.childhealthresearch.org.au/media/54907/chapter16.pdf

Perinatal Jargon Busting (get your head around the lingo) meta4RN.com/jargon

Using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (tips for midwives, child health nurses, Indigenous health workers and other clinicians) meta4RN.com/epd

Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale  (this version is online, anonymous, free and self-scoring) justspeakup.com.au/epds

Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Libguide (a very handy for researchers and clinicians) tpch.qld.libguides.com/PIMH

pnd-dadQueensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (QCPIMH have some great resources) www.health.qld.gov.au/qcpimh

Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Nurse eNetwork (an email network hosted by the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses for nurses and midwives interested in perinatal and/or infant mental health) lists.acmhn.org/wws/info/perinatal-infant-mh

ACMHN Perinatal Mental Health Online CPD Program (a 3 module continuing professional development program which is open to Australian College of Mental Health Nurses members [free] and non-member nurses and midwives [$33 including GST]) www.acmhn.org/perinatal-elearning

Nurturing the Nurturers (info about guided reflective practice/clinical supervision as a self-care mechanism for health professionals) meta4RN.com/nurturers

For the Parent(s)

PANDA

Cairns Perinatal Mental Health Support Options google.com/?q=perinatal+cairns

Stay Connected, Stay Strong: Before and After Baby (cool DVD featuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents). Borrow: lib.cairnslibrary.com.au Buy: www.health.qld.gov.au/qcpimh YouTube: http://youtu.be/CLsjgw8pvOA

Behind the Mask: The Hidden Struggle of Parenthood (DVD preview) http://youtu.be/FjqOqJLkyFs

PANDA – Post and Antenatal Depression Association (for info and phone support) www.panda.org.au

How is Dad Going? (for fathers affected by perinatal anxiety/depression)  www.howisdadgoing.org.au

Pregnancy, Birth & Baby (24 hour info and support) www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au

beyondblue (lots of resources, including booklets regarding emotional health in pregnancy and early parenthood, some multilingual booklets) www.beyondblue.org.au

mindthebumpMind the Bump is a free Mindfulness Meditation App to help individuals and couples support their mental and emotional wellbeing in preparation for having a baby and becoming a new parent www.mindthebump.org.au

Black Dog Institute (info and resources re perinatal depression for women and men; presented in a different style to beyond blue’s info) www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

Doc Ready (for those not sure how to start a conversation about mental health with your midwife, nurse or doctor? maybe building a checklist will help) docready.org

MindHealthConnect (good place to find trusted mental health programs, fact sheets, and to access urgent support via the red “Need Help Now?” button on each page) www.mindhealthconnect.org.au

pnd-mum-torres

Puerperal Psychosis

Information on Puerperal Psychosis (2010) by Dr Anne Sven Williams and Sue Ellershaw (be alert, not alarmed: a self-downloading DOC; the target audience for this is women/families affected by puerperal psychosis,  but many of us clinicians have also found it a useful adjunct to our formal education) www.wch.sa.gov.au

Puerperal Psychosis: A Carer’s Survival Guide (PDF by Craig Allatt: Craig’s partner experienced puerperal psychosis) www.wch.sa.gov.au

Keeping Baby In Mind

Print

A Monster Ate My Mum (a children’s book looking at postnatal depression through a child’s eyes) amonsteratemymum.wordpress.com

Still Face Experiment (Edward Tronick’s demonstration of how infants respond to changes in interaction from primary caregivers is often cited in infant mental health education) youtu.be/apzXGEbZht0

Baby Cues Video Guide (trying to work-out what newborns are trying to communicate can be tricky; these video guides might help) raisingchildren.net.au

Circle of Security (re attachment theory and affective neuroscience) circleofsecurity.net

Raising Children Network (an Australian resource for parenting, covers newborns to teens) raisingchildren.net.au

wellbeing

That’s all I have on my list for now. Please add your suggestions for valuable links and resources to share at my Perinatal mental Health Workshops in the comments section below.

Paul McNamara, 7th February 2014

Perinatal Mental Health: A Good News Story

diabetes, for instance

diabetes, for instance

Most health messages are such a downer, surely there are many people who will either switch-off from the message, or become unduly alarmed. Compare health marketing to commercial marketing and it’s no wonder obesity is rising. Put frankly, Coca-Cola and McDonalds have better ads: they’re full of fun and optimism:

Things Go Better With Coke!  

McDonalds – I’m Lovin’ It! 

Don’t get me wrong: depression is a bugger of a thing, and perinatal mood disorders are especially poorly timed. Looking after a pregnancy/baby is tricky enough without tossing in anxiety and/or depression.

However, at the risk of sounding all Pollyanna about it, there are some good news stories we can talk about when discussing perinatal mental health. Here’s a small list of things I’d like mentioned in every antenatal class/similar forum for parents-to-be/new parents:

IMG_0328[1] 6 in 7 new mothers and 19 in 20 new fathers will not experience perinatal depression. Are there any other gambles that give you better odds?

[2] Symptoms are usually easy to recognise. There’s even a free online anonymous self-scoring tool available: justspeakup.com.au/epds

[3] If somebody is not sure how to start a conversation about mental health with their midwife, doctor or child health nurse, there’s a handy online tool to help build a checklist of things to mention: docready.org

[4] Information and resources are easy to find. In Australia the “big five” are:

[5] Support is easy to find too:

[6] There are a range of treatment options: it’s not a matter of  “one size fits all”.

[7] If required, there are some medications that can be used in pregnancy and/or breastfeeding.

[8] Recovery rates for postnatal depression are very good.

[9] Some places have access to specialist perinatal mental health clinicians.

[10] Mental health clinicians are not interested in stealing the baby. In fact, mental health clinicians seem quite pleased with themselves when they get to see parents and infants connecting and communicating with each other.

[11] If attachment between parent and baby does not happen as easily as expected (this happens a fair bit with anxiety and/or depression), there are video guides to help, for example: Baby Cues Also, in some towns and cities (especially those with a perinatal and infant mental health nurse), there are clinical staff who can help with this communication/attachment/bonding stuff too.

What’s This About Exactly?

During the week a couple of new mums declined referral to see a nurse (me) from the consultation liaison psychiatry service because they had preconceptions about how negative the experience would be. It’s not absolutely necessary for every parent to see a mental health specialist, of course, but I think we (that’s “we the health professionals”) should start fishing-around for ways to better describe the good news stories about perinatal mental health.

diabetes, that is

diabetes, that is

If Coca-Cola and McDonalds can convey a sense of fun and optimism out of the products they sell, surely we can convey a sense of fun and optimism out of the services we provide. We have something that’s much better than the offerings of either Coca-Cola or McDonalds, so let’s reorientate the language and recalibrate expectations by using positive language.

Maybe when perinatal and infant mental health (PIMH) services in Queensland are re-established, we can re-launch with an upbeat attitude and slogan:

 PIMH for a healthy head-start!

End

What are your ideas for upbeat slogans and messages? Please add them in the comments section below.

Paul McNamara, 25th January 2014

The Myth of the National Perinatal Depression Initiative

og13232011Back in June 2011  I was employed as a perinatal mental health nurse, and was working in partnership with midwives, child health nurses, GPs, Indigenous health workers, allied health staff and obstetricians to provide and develop easy, smooth pathways to mental health care for pregnant women and new mums who needed a bit of extra support.

At the time I was invited to submit this article to O&G Magazine regarding perinatal mental health.

One of the closing paragraphs of the article was this:

It would be fair to say that availability of specialist perinatal mental health service in Australia has been patchy. In some health districts, perinatal mental health services have evolved without specific funding, often emerging as a component of consultation liaison mental health. However, until recently there hasn’t been a coordinated approach to perinatal mental health at a national level. This should be addressed, in part at least, by Federal, State and Territory Governments using National Perinatal Depression Initiative funding to seed specific services and models of service delivery at various urban and regional centres. In Queensland, for example, there will a dozen or so ‘perinatal mental health clinical nurse consultants’ seeded in a number of strategic locations around the state, with the hope/intent of developing sustainable referral pathways and contributing to workforce training and development in this area.

Boy, did I get that wrong.

There were a dozen or so perinatal mental health clinical nurse consultants in Queensland Health up until June 2013. Now there are three: two on the northern side of Brisbane and one in Toowoomba. Apparently (if the grapevine is correct) there are funded perinatal mental health positions in Townsville and Gold Coast too, it’s just that they’re both empty at the moment. That leaves two out of sixteen Queensland Hospital and Health Services currently with access to a perinatal mental health nurse.

This is just as I feared back in March 2013 (see: The National Perinatal Depression Initiative and a Canary in a Coal Mine?).

2% of Australia's population lives in the yellow area. Source:  @Amazing_Maps

2% of Australia’s population lives in the yellow area. Source: @Amazing_Maps

For the many health districts that have lost the specialist perinatal mental health nurse, the only alternative is to ask the woman to use phone support or see their GP instead.

But there are problems with both the phone support and the GP option.

Look, I have nothing but admiration for GPs – they’re at the frontline of primary health care and tend to be a very versatile bunch. But, let’s face it: most GPs are as busy as a one-armed Sydney taxi-driver with an ice-cream and an itch. It’s a big ask for the GP and the pregnant woman/new mum to make the time and head space available for ventilating, understanding and re-packaging strong emotions.

When I’m meeting with somebody who is experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health difficulties, it usually takes me an hour or so to feel that I have provided an outlet for the distress, and gained an understanding of what strategies and services we should use to support the person.

Maybe I have just have slow ears.

Maybe GPs can hear, understand and sensitively respond to those complex stories of loss, grief, trauma and unmet expectations quicker than I can.

Or maybe, just maybe, the families that have lost easy access to a specialist perinatal mental health nurse have lost easy access to support.

PANDAIn a cruel double-whammy, at the same time perinatal mental health nurse positions in Queensland were disappearing, the national perinatal mental health telephone support line was also becoming less accessible. Since midway through 2013 PANDA’s National Perinatal Depression Helpline has had to cut-back on available hours to 10:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday. This time last year it was 9:00am to 9:00pm Monday to Friday. Earlier this year the Million Mums in May campaign was hoping to get funding for PANDA to offer a 24 hour, 7 day-per-week service.

When perinatal mental health services on the ground are being cut in various places around the country, wouldn’t that be a good time to expand and promote the accessibility of the national helpline? Unfortunately, the opposite has occurred.

It is not all doom and gloom: if parents live within cooee of a St John of God Raphael Centre or near of the long-established state-run perinatal mental health services (usually in capital cities), access to support is still pretty good.

However, coverage is patchy: Australia’s “National” Perinatal Depression Initiative is anything but national. The “national” part is a myth.

Access to specialist perinatal mental health services in Australia is a postcode lottery and, as with all lotteries, there are a lot of losing tickets.

End

As always, your feedback and comments are welcome below.

As there have been no formal announcements/media releases about perinatal mental health services contracting, I have had to rely on first-hand knowledge and, to a lesser extent, hearsay via “the grapevine”.

If there any factual errors as at November 2013 please let me know. Naturally, i would like to make any necessary correction(s) as soon as practical.

Paul McNamara, 28th November 2013

Mental Health Nurses in the Pacific (to be specific) #alajcu2013

A Cool Event

There was 441 years of experience in health care at the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Workshop, just one part of the month-long event supporting mental health leaders from six Pacific Island nations.

There was 441 years of experience in health care at the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Workshop, just one part of the month-long event supporting mental health leaders from six Pacific Island nations.

A really cool event happened in Cairns from July 1st to 26th. James Cook University’s School of Nursing, Midwifery & Nutrition hosted eighteen Mental Health Nurses from Western Pacific nations; specifically, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Palau, KiribatiCook Islands and the Solomon Islands. Funded via an AusAID Australian Leadership Award, leaders in mental health nursing from these countries had the opportunity to attend lectures, participate in workshops, make site visits to public and private mental health facilities, and other activities aimed at providing educational opportunities they may not be able to acquire at home.

This “train the trainer” approach to supporting mental health nurse education amongst our neighbours in the Pacific is a really smart idea: major kudos to Professor Kim Usher and the whole team at James Cook University’s World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre and School of Nursing, Midwifery and Nutrition. For more info about the program please visit these sites:

Also, it is interesting to read this interview with Jeffrey Alphonse, a mental health nurse from Papua New Guinea who attended the course. Jeffrey conveys a sense of life living and working in in a PNG mental health inpatient facility.

I am sure that the JCU crew have evaluations of the event that will probably pop-up in reports/journals/online soon enough. That’s the sort of thing researchers are really good at.

OK. What’s This Blog Post About Then?

For this blog post I just want to touch on two cool outcomes from my perspective: the perspective of one who was not an organiser or “insider” to the event, but not a complete outsider to the event either.

It was an honour to be invited to meet with the Mental Health Nurses from the Pacific for two occasions. The first visit was an opportunity to introduce my role and compare/contrast the way mental health nurses are deployed in Australia and in the Pacific. Something I learnt is that it is easier to have nurse-led programs in Pacific nations because, to put it bluntly, there are often no other mental health professionals available.

There was 441 years of health care  experience at the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Workshop on 12/07/13.

There was 441 years of health care experience at the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Workshop on 12/07/13.

The second visit was to facilitate a Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (PiMH) Workshop on 12th July. The workshop was different from the usual ones I run because of the vast amount of diverse cultural and clinical experience in the room. Obviously, the vast majority of the participants were mental health nurse leaders from the six Pacific Island nations listed above, but a couple of social workers from the FNQ Medicare Local and a JCU Student Nurse also participated, and some of the JCU Faculty were also able to pop-in for a while.

I have mentioned the structure of the workshop in a previous blog post (see here). Although this workshop had plenty of differences in participant experiences (great learning for me!), the content/agenda we covered was pretty-much the same as previous PiMH workshops, just presented in a slightly different manner.

The workshop contributed to the first of the two cool outcomes.

Cool Outcome Number One: Perinatal and Infant Mental Health in the Pacific Islands

Cool outcome number one is that the workshop content really resonated with some people attending; so much so that they’re intending to take some of the learnings from the workshop back home with them. I found out about this via Anna Cole-Groth, a JCU student nurse who supported the Pacific Island mental health nurse leaders, and contributed to extending the reach of event by utilising social media (as per these examples below):

Solomon

A few of the participants, including Rose from the Solomon Islands, were interested in the way we have been trying to build mental health screening and support pathways into the day-to-day practice of antenatal and postpartum practice. The notion of a prevention/early intervention, proactive “precovery” approach to perinatal mental health care was welcomed as a way to work in partnership with families, communities and other health professionals.

PNG

The workshop was the first introduction to infant mental health for most of the participants, and had particular resonance with some in attendance. The workshop allowed us to discuss and consider some of the key concepts around infant mental health practice, and to give consideration to how it could be incorporated into healthcare in the Pacific Islands. Many participants, including those from Papua New Guinea, spoke of how it could enhance the way mental health and baby care is catered for in community-orientated village life.

It is fantastic to know that some of the perinatal and infant mental information and models of care we have been using here in Australia might have a positive, knock-on effect with our two closest neighbours: Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. For me personally and professionally, after feeling quite dejected about the loss of a role funded by the National Perinatal Depression Initiative (NPDI), it is an unexpected and very welcome joy to think there may be an echo of the program I facilitated amongst our northern neighbours, via a grassroots, nurse-led, undertaking to trial some of these ideas.

We (those of us who have had access to education and resources in this area) should do everything we can to support these mental health nurse leaders. I hope that the Pacific Islanders will find the email network hosted by the ACMHN (Australian College of Mental Health Nurses) a useful bridge to information, resources and supportive, encouraging peers. Subscription to the Perinatal & Infant Mental Health Nurse eNetwork is free and simple; more info and instructions here and here.

Cool Outcome Number Two: Social Media and Wantoks

“Wantok” is pidgin for “one talk” (say it quick: it’s phonetic), ie: a shared language. In places like Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands the use of the word wantok is in context of a nuanced social system that I (a whitefella from Adelaide living in Cairns), may ever fully understand. So, for my benefit, let’s simplify the use of “wontok” to simply “those who share a common language”, as in “those who understand and like each other”.

Mental health nurses, no matter what nation they live and work in, share the common experience of up-close and personal interactions with people experiencing mental illness. Most of us also share the goal/hope that we will find effective ways to promote good mental health, so as to lighten the load for individuals, their families and the community they live and work in. This gives us a shared language: we’re wantoks.

Evan Casella, another JCU student nurse who supported the program participants and used social media to share some of the program content, sent out this great photo with the tweet:

#alajcu2013 participant opinions of SoMe use in nursing. Great to get a South Pacific perspective. Mostly thumbs up!

like

It’s such a good photo – I love the way Evan used the Facebook “like” symbol, and that the participants were straight down the line with whether they thought social media (aka SoMe) would be useful in their context. This, in turn, led to the next cool outcome: three of the program participants joined Twitter before the course ended.

So, although the four-week Pacific Island Mental Health Nurse Leaders program is over, it is easy to stay connected with some of program participants using social media.

If you are a mental health nurse who can share information, resources, ideas and camaraderie, please follow these mental health nurses from PNG: they are your Wantoks.

For those interested in professional use of social media, have a look at the transcript and analytics of the #alajcu2013 hashtag courtesy of www.symplur.com

Analytics via Symplur health hashtag project

Analytics via Symplur health hashtag project

Closing Remarks

Mental health health nurses speak one language; we are wantoks. How do we know? By the connections. As shown above we connected content (perinatal and infant mental health is one example) and we connected clinicians (in person for four weeks, and looking ahead via Twitter).

Congratulations to James Cook University and AusAID for the work that they have done.  Now it is time for mental health nurses and others interested in perinatal mental health to continue the work by sharing information, resources and camaraderie with mental health nurses from Pacific Island nations: they are our wantoks.

Cool Connections (via Twitter)

PNG Wantoks:

JCU Wantoks

Paul McNamara, 31st July 2013