The unpredictability and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic; the associated lockdowns, physical distancing, and other containment strategies; and the resulting economic breakdown could increase the risk of mental health problems and exacerbate health inequalities. Preliminary findings suggest adverse mental health effects in previously healthy people and especially in people with pre-existing mental health disorders. Despite the heterogeneity of worldwide health systems, efforts have been made to adapt the delivery of mental health care to the demands of COVID-19. Mental health concerns have been addressed via the public mental health response and by adapting mental health services, mostly focusing on infection control, modifying access to diagnosis and treatment, ensuring continuity of care for mental health service users, and paying attention to new cases of mental ill health and populations at high risk of mental health problems. Sustainable adaptations of delivery systems for mental health care should be developed by experts, clinicians, and service users, and should be specifically designed to mitigate disparities in health-care provision. Thorough and continuous assessment of health and service-use outcomes in mental health clinical practice will be crucial for defining which practices should be further developed and which discontinued. For this Position Paper, an international group of clinicians, mental health experts, and users of mental health services has come together to reflect on the challenges for mental health that COVID-19 poses. The interconnectedness of the world made society vulnerable to this infection, but it also provides the infrastructure to address previous system failings by disseminating good practices that can result in sustained, efficient, and equitable delivery of mental health-care delivery. Thus, the COVID-19 pandemic could be an opportunity to improve mental health services.
A systematic review of the published work on consumer involvement in the education
Mental health policy in Australia is committed to the development of recovery-focused services and facilitating consumer participation in all aspects of mental health service delivery. Negative attitudes of mental health professionals have been identified as a major barrier to achieving these goals. Although the education of health professionals has been identified as a major strategy, there is limited evidence to suggest that consumers are actively involved in this education process. The aim of this qualitative study was to evaluate students' views and opinions at having been taught 'recovery in mental health nursing' by a person with a lived experience of significant mental health challenges. In-depth interviews were held with 12 students. Two main themes were identified: (i) 'looking through fresh eyes' - what it means to have a mental illness; and (ii) 'it's all about the teaching'. The experience was perceived positively; students referred to the impact made on their attitudes and self-awareness, and their ability to appreciate the impact of mental illness on the individual person. Being taught by a person with lived experience was considered integral to the process. This innovative approach could enhance consumer participation and recovery-focused care.
Consumers of mental health services have an important role to play in the higher education of nursing students, by facilitating understanding of the experience of mental illness and instilling a culture of consumer participation. Yet the level of consumer participation in mental health nursing programmes in Australia is not known. The aim of the present study was to scope the level and nature of involvement of consumers in mental health nursing higher education in Australia. A cross-sectional study was undertaken involving an internet survey of nurse academics who coordinate mental health nursing programmes in universities across Australia, representing 32 universities. Seventy-eight percent of preregistration and 75% of post-registration programmes report involving consumers. Programmes most commonly had one consumer (25%) and up to five. Face-to-face teaching, curriculum development, and membership-to-programme committees were the most regular types of involvement. The content was generally codeveloped by consumers and nurse academics (67.5%). The frequency of consumer involvement in the education of nursing students in Australia is surprisingly high. However, involvement is noticeably variable across types of activity (e.g. curriculum development, assessment), and tends to be minimal and ad hoc. Future research is required into the drivers of increased consumer involvement.
A window of opportunity currently exists to maximize lived experience leadership, and that window may be closing fast if broad-based actions are not initiated now. (PsycINFO Database Record
Recovery is government mandated and a core facet of mental health reform. However, Recovery implementation in this country (Australia) has been inhibited by a lack of education of, and understanding from, clinicians. A grounded theory study was undertaken to explore the potential and existing role of lived experience practitioners in assisting meaningful implementations of Recovery within the Australian mental health sector. In-depth interviews were conducted with 13 people employed to work from a lived experience perspective. The findings suggest participants have experienced and observed significant barriers to the implementation of Recovery-focused practice while operating in lived experience roles. Three main issues emerged: (1) Recovery co-opted, (2) Recovery uptake, and (3) Recovery denial. For a genuine Recovery-focused mental health system to be developed, lived experience practitioners must be enabled to take their role as Recovery experts and leaders. Lived experience practitioners are the logical leaders of Recovery implementation due to their own internal experience and understandings of Recovery and the wider lived experience movement's development and championing of the concepts.
Gaining experience in clinical mental health settings is central to the education of health practitioners. To facilitate the ongoing development of knowledge and practice in this area, we performed a review of the literature on clinical placements in mental health settings. Searches in Academic Search Complete, CINAHL, Medline and PsycINFO databases returned 244 records, of which 36 met the selection criteria for this review. Five additional papers were obtained through scanning the reference lists of those papers included from the initial search. The evidence suggests that clinical placements may have multiple benefits (e.g. improving students' skills, knowledge, attitudes towards people with mental health issues and confidence, as well as reducing their fears and anxieties about working in mental health). The location and structure of placements may affect outcomes, with mental health placements in non-mental health settings appearing to have minimal impact on key outcomes. The availability of clinical placements in mental health settings varies considerably among education providers, with some students completing their training without undertaking such structured clinical experiences. Students have generally reported that their placements in mental health settings have been positive and valuable experiences, but have raised concerns about the amount of support they received from education providers and healthcare staff. Several strategies have been shown to enhance clinical placement experiences (e.g. providing students with adequate preparation in the classroom, implementing learning contracts and providing clinical supervision). Educators and healthcare staff need to work together for the betterment of student learning and the healthcare professions.
Mental health nursing consistently emerges as less popular than other specialties, and both service users and mental health practitioners are affected by negative attitudes. Education is fundamental to attracting students to the field of mental health nursing. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of undergraduate mental health curricula on student attitudes to people with mental illness, and career interest in mental health nursing. A traditional mental health course was compared to a course delivered by a person with lived experience of mental illness (and mental health service use) for its impact on student attitudes and career intentions in mental health nursing (cohort 1: n = 70, cohort 2: n = 131, respectively). In both cohorts, attitudes were measured via self-report, before and after the course, and changes were investigated through within-subjects t-tests. The lived experience-led course demonstrated statistically-significant positive changes in intentions to pursue mental health nursing and a decrease in negative stereotypes, which were not observed in the traditional course. The valuable contribution of mental health nursing emerged in the traditional, but not lived-experience-led, programmes. These findings support the value of an academic with lived experience of mental health challenges in promoting attraction to mental health nursing as a career option.
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