Tag Archives: Saint Dymphna

Should May 15th be International Mental Health Nurse Day?


An afterthought to a previous blog post Dymphna: The Amazing Story of a Catholic Patron Saint.

Midwives are celebrated every 5th May with the International Day of the Midwife.

Nurses are acknowledged every May 12th (Florence Nightingale’s birthday) with International Nurses Day.

Which leaves me wondering whether Mental Health Nurses should follow suit and nominate a day to acknowledge, celebrate and raise the profile of our speciality – an International Mental Health Nurse Day.

15th May is Saint Dymphna’s Feast Day – to Catholics she is the patron saint of mental health nurses (and our clients, colleagues and workplaces). Also, in Geel, Belgium (where Dymphna died) there is both a cathedral dedicated to Dymphna and (this is thought to be related) an incredibly progressive approach to mental health care.

Would it be too cringe-worthy to use the story of Dymphna/Geel for leverage in getting International Mental Health Nurses Day off the ground?

I understand completely that many would feel uncomfortable aligning mental health nursing with a story associated with one specific religion. However, there are two related tales associated with May 15th: Dympha’s healing, wisdom, kindness and strength, and the related outcome of progressive mental health services evolving in Geel. The power of these stories may give us Mental Health Nurses a foothold on which to raise the awareness, profile and prestige of our work.

Let’s face it – the Florence Nightingale story is integral to the historical profile of general nurses. However, dear old Flo’s story is as dull as dishwater when compared to the story of Dymphna – really! it’s a great yarn – watch the video:

Of course, I have no mandate to suggest the idea of International Mental Health Nurse Day, let alone suggest a date. However, if Mental Health Nurses want to peek-out from behind the skirts of our more glamorous and glorified colleagues, we could do worse than hitch ourselves to Dymphna’s amazing story and Geel’s dynamic approach to mental health care.

15th May as International Mental Health Nurses Day is as good a day as any – isn’t it?

As always, I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.

Paul McNamara, 20th May 2013 (with some additional edits on 29th April 2014)

Dymphna: The Amazing Story of a Catholic Patron Saint

May15If you have 6 minutes to spare, please watch my YouTube presentation (above) about a 14yo Irish girl called Dymphna.

Saint Dymphna, as she has been known in death, is remembered each year on the 15th of May – her Feast Day.

My understanding is that Catholic patron saints acquire experiences during their lives that equip them with special empathy for particular causes or problems. Although Dymphna died young, she has been allocated a very broad portfolio of patronages, including:

  • facebookagainst sleepwalking
  • against epilepsy
  • against insanity
  • against mental disorders
  • against mental illness
  • epileptics
  • family happiness
  • incest victims
  • loss of parents
  • martyrs
  • mental asylums
  • mental health caregivers
  • mental health professionals
  • mental hospitals
  • mentally ill people
  • nervous disorders
  • neurological disorders
  • possessed people
  • princesses
  • rape victims
  • runaways
  • sleepwalkers

SMSTo get the full gist of the story please watch the video or, alternatively, you can do as I have done and do a bit of research on the internet. These are the sites I used to inform the story and decorate the presentation (in no particular order):

My thanks and admiration to all those people behind those websites and the stories they contain. Aren’t we fortunate to live in an age where information is readily accessible?

DymphnaScrenshotGeeky Stuff

Technical stuff about making the video (you might want to do something similar).

  • visuals made using Prezi (it’s free, it’s really cool)
  • narration recoded using the “Voice Memos” app on my iPhone
  • transferred the narration from phone to computer via iTunes/iPhone sync
  • the visual and narration bought together using ScreenFlow
  • uploaded to YouTube

It took me a bit of mucking-around to get it right, and there’s quite a few “umms” and “ahhs” in the narration. Nevertheless, if you’re thinking about giving something like this a go I would recommend it. It’s certainly do-able – you’ll need perseverance and patience more than talent.

Hope you enjoy the presentation and, no matter what your belief system, enjoy the Feast Day of Saint Dymphna too.

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.

Paul McNamara, 14th May 2013