A man and woman holding hands.

New initiatives support mental health

27 January 2016

January 27 is Bell “Let’s Talk” Day, a day to help break down barriers associated with mental illness. Assistant Professor Kristin Cleverley, who holds the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Psychiatric and Addiction Research Nursing Chair at Bloomberg Nursing, recognizes that events like the Bell “Let’s Talk” campaign are an important catalyst for increasing conversations about mental health and reducing stigma about mental illness. The creation of the research chair is a testament to the priority Bloomberg Nursing and CAMH place on expanding the roles of nurses in mental health research. “Developing new knowledge in the field, and supporting mental health nursing education and scholarship across our programs at Bloomberg Nursing is especially exciting,” says Cleverley.

“Recent evidence suggests that 1 in 5 individuals will experience mental illness in their lifetime.” Cleverley states. “It is important that nurses are aware of mental health resources, coping strategies, ways to support those with mental illness, not only for the care of patients, for our own self-care as well.” Cleverley first witnessed the importance of the nurse role in mental health while working with homeless and street-involved youth during completion of her undergraduate nursing degree. “I saw that many youth were struggling with mental illness and/or addiction, and that service and program options were scarce or not easily accessible, and indeed that there were more questions than answers for how to best support these youth and their families.”

It’s not just leading researchers who recognize the importance of mental health. Bloomberg Nursing alumna Clare Shields (Class of 6T7) saw first-hand the emotional toll taken on her late husband, a physician, in his day-to-day work. In her own practice, she watched a colleague struggle with a narcotic addiction as a means of coping with “on-the-job” stress. “It is vitally important that nurses learn how to support their own mental health, and be able to recognize when their classmates or colleagues may be struggling.” Shields recently established a Student Wellness Fund at Bloomberg Nursing, with the goal of improving the well-being of students in the nursing program. “We teach nursing students how to meet the emotional needs of clients, but not one another or themselves.” The Clare Shields Wellness Fund will be used to promote and enhance nursing wellness and self-care initiatives at Bloomberg Nursing, and will provide a permanent source of funding to help support these activities. “I’m proud to support student wellness,” says Shields, who established a similar fund at Laurentian University for medical students.

Events like Bell “Let’s Talk” Day serve as a starting point for important conversations among youth, adults, in school communities, and at the work place. “Nurses are often the primary caregivers in hospitals and communities and therefore are perfectly positioned to ensure assessment of both the physical and mental health of patients,” Cleverley states. And initiatives such as the Clare Shields Student Wellness Fund mean that nurses will be equipped to help not just patients, but themselves and their colleagues as well.

On January 27, Bell will donate 5 cents to mental health initiatives for every text message sent, mobile and long distance call made, tweet of the #BellLetsTalk hashtag, or share of the Facebook image. Learn more and add your voice by visiting http://letstalk.bell.ca