• Critical Mental Health Nursing: observations from the inside

Critical Mental Health Nursing: observations from the inside

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ISBN 9781910919408
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The argument that propels this emphatic book is that mental health nursing cannot continue to pin the blame for its own actions and failings on the psychiatric hierarchy. As the editors point out, mental health nursing is a degree-level qualification; it has achieved its ambition to be ‘a profession in its own right’. But it has failed to find its own voice and identity or to challenge the coercive, invalidating and traumatising culture and practices within the mainstream mental health services.

It has failed above all to subject itself to its own critical scrutiny.

This is what these chapters set out to do, starting powerfully with an apology from the editors to all the many millions of users of mental health services who have been subjected to the profession’s failure to care: ‘We cannot think of a new knowledge, approach, skill or kind of empowerment that nurses have themselves forged as a “profession in our own right”, of which our service users are identifiably beneficiaries,’ they write.

The editors and several of the 13 contributors to this book are members of the Critical Mental Health Nurses Network, formally launched in 2015. The aim of the network is to provide an identity and forum for shared experience for mental health nurses who are able to admit that the world is far more complex than many would prefer to believe, that people’s messy lives cannot be tidied away into discrete diagnostic categories, and who are, above all, ‘critical’.

Chapters highlight the dilemmas and assumptions encountered daily in mental health nursing practice and ask readers to reflect and challenge them to take collective and individual action to bring about change. Topics include:

• recovery and recovery colleges, written from very different viewpoints
• rooting out the violence culturally embedded within mental health nursing
• nurse education and how to translate theory into ethical best practice
• negotiating the complex pressures of delivering frontline crisis care
• playing the power game within the mental health system
• how the Mental Health Act blocks creative nursing practice
• embedding critical thinking and reflective practice within the profession
• forming political alliances with social movement activists
• the role of social contexts and cultures in shaping mental health and relationships
• mental health nursing as a therapy.

A continuing theme is the ubiquity of coercion both embedded within and perpetrated by the mental health nursing profession. In the editors’ words, it is time for the profession to ‘open new forums... share our honest experiences and fears and, above all, look to all of the places in which imagination has been reignited... [to find] new possibilities that make coercive options fall away.

Table of contents

Our apology - Stephen Williams, Jonathan Gadsby and Peter Bull

Introduction - Stephen Williams, Jonathan Gadsby and Peter Bull

1 Nursing violence, nursing violence - Jonathan Gadsby

2 Moving around the hyphens: a critical meta-autoethnographic performance - Alec Grant

3 A duoethnography of a UK higher education nurse-led recovery college: leadership and studentship - Stephen Williams and Steven Prosser

4 A balancing act - Darren Mills

5 Power at play: the doctor–nurse game in acute mental health care - Anne Felton and Gemma Stacey

6 Colluding with prejudice? The role of mental health nurses in shaping the future of the Mental Health Act - Gary Sidley

7 The development of a critically-orientated mental health nursing practice: Michel Foucault’s history of the present - Marc Roberts

8 The ideology of recovery in mental health care - Alastair Morgan

9 ‘Ackin it back t’brick with autoethnography: reflective practice and mental health recovery research - Tony Sparkes

10 Mental health workforce and survivor alliances: a personal story of possibilities, perils and pratfalls - Mick McKeown

11 Standing at the cliff edge but very safely belayed - Benny Goodman

12 On the borderlands of care: towards a politics of welcoming - Erica Fletcher

13 Mental health nursing as therapy - Tony McSherry

Pete Bull

Pete Bull spent six months as a day hospital outpatient in South London in 1997 when he was 18, attended several universities, dropped out, had more than 40 jobs and travelled through Australia before qualifying as an existential counsellor and psychotherapist in 2010. Since then he has qualified and worked as a CBT therapist and registered mental health nurse. He is currently a community mental health nurse in Brighton.

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Jonathan Gadsby

Jonathan Gadsby qualified as a mental health nurse in Bristol in 2001. He did a Masters in the philosophy and ethics of mental health at the University of Warwick and a PhD at Birmingham City University, under the direction of Mervyn Morris and Marius Romme. He now works as a teacher of mental health nurses and social workers at Birmingham City University. He was one of the founders of the Critical Mental Health Nurses’ Network and has continued to contribute to their website as a writer and editor.

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Stephen Williams

Stephen Williams is a graduate psychologist, registered mental health nurse, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and has a postgraduate qualification in higher education practice. He has been a lecturer-practitioner in mental health nursing at the University of Bradford for the past eight years, where he is Field Lead in Mental Health and also delivers a community education emotional health service, the Wellness Academy. Previously he has worked as a nurse specialist in psychological therapy in a community mental health team, lead nurse in a hi-functioning autism spectrum service and a research nurse exploring decision-making and service user satisfaction in specialist secondary-care mental health services.


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