A mental health online television and podcast series co-founded by a Middlesex University nursing academic has been running throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The virus outbreak and subsequent lockdowns have sparked a mental health crisis with the demand for professional mental health services at an all-time high.
However with restrictions on movement and meetings, there have been few opportunities for mental health academics and practitioners to network and share concerns.
“We wanted to bring the mental health nurse community together at a time when they were under such immense pressure from COVID-19, with opportunities to connect and support each other in person much harder.” Dave Munday, a Lead Professional Officer in Mental Health at Unite the union.
With this mind, Mental Health TV (#mhTV) began in May last year to bring mental health nurses together and provide informative discussions through a diverse range of guests.
The project was co-founded by registered mental health nurse Vanessa Garrity, who runs an online community for mental health nurses called weMHNurses, Nicky Lambert, an Associate Professor in Mental Health at Middlesex University and Unite the union’s Mental Health Nursing Association.
The initiative has also been supported by Mental Health Nurse Academics UK and MDX’s Centre for Coproduction in Mental Health and Social Care, which is co-directed by Prof Lambert.
“Last year during lockdown, I felt compelled to offer some sort of online space where mental health nurses could come together informally during lockdown for support and camaraderie,” said Vanessa Gilmartin Garrity.
“I thought that this was something I could offer and facilitate through WeMHNurses as we have a significant reach and engagement nationally.”
Weekly episodes, more than 40 so far, have been recorded via Zoom, shown on a YouTube channel, live streamed to Facebook and then turned into podcasts which can be downloaded through apps such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and Pocket Casts.
During the discussions, viewers can ask the expert panel questions via Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter.
Academics, practitioners and specialists have discussed topics including the Black Lives Matter movement, substance misuse, spiritual support, social media and LGBTQI+ pride.
In one fascinating episode Liz Byrt, a mental health nurse, and Sarah Howes, a Lecturer in Mental Health from the University of Plymouth, discussed how sea swimming can boost mental wellbeing.
Obviously biased but another great #mhTV episode tonight. @VanessaRNMH & @niadla are talking to @FionaBastow & @mermi_a about Art, performance and the emotional aspects of nursing. https://t.co/tKuw1s9eq9— David Munday (@davidamunday) January 27, 2021
Nicky said: “At the start of lockdown I felt like the energy from The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife was draining away, but coming together with friends and realising that we could do something different to bring us all together was really exciting.
“Having informal conversations is key to creating a wider community of learning. There’s real value in sharing best practice, making higher-level thinking accessible - it’s how you develop and celebrate your professional self.
“It’s natural to want to pull back and retrench when you feel under pressure but one way we can get through tough times is by being together, learning and sharing our resources.”
Dave Munday, a Lead Professional Officer in Mental Health at Unite the union, explained that last year a number of events planned to celebrate mental health nursing during the Year Of The Nurse and Midwife were cancelled due to the pandemic.
The podcast series has resurrected and hosted some of these events including the prestigious annual 2020 Skellern Lecture & Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing Lifetime Achievement Award.
It has also allowed Unite Mental Health Nursing Association to offer opportunities and discussions to members for professional development which they would previously hold in-person.
Dave is pleased that mhTV has attracted positive feedback with mental health staff contacting presenters afterwards to discuss topics and developing their services locally after watching or listening in.
“Whilst the plans for face-to-face events had to be dropped due to the coronavirus pandemic we still wanted to bring the mental health nurse community together and make sure they were celebrated,” said Dave.
“We wanted to bring the mental health nurse community together at a time when they were under such immense pressure from COVID-19, with opportunities to connect and support each other in person much harder.”
Nicky added: “We’ve had amazing feedback from listeners and you can see that it’s a resource that is helping mental health nurses and academics.”
Find out more about studying for a Nursing (Mental Health) BSc Honours degree.