My name is Mandy and I have been working in mental health since I was 17. I had developed a fascination for the area when a family member suffered her own mental health problems and I wanted to find out more. This fascination has never waned and I have come to realise over the years the more I work in the field the less I know.
I commenced my career as a cadet nurse in a big psychiatric hospital with over a thousand beds and the male and female keys that went with the divided hospital. It was nothing to have a ward of 45 patients and three staff. When I look back now at some of the practices I know people would shudder but we were doing the best we could under the circumstances, I often wonder when we look back on today’s practices what we will think.
I had the privilege of doing my training whilst getting paid and being accounted in the numbers and admit to feeling very well prepared for my role as a staff nurse. Once qualified I enjoyed a generic career working in an acute day hospital, learning disability home, elderly care, rehabilitation and community posts. I enjoyed all of them and continued on that path of lifelong learning. Recognising the need to enhance my academic profile I completed my diploma in advanced mental health.
I secured a secondment post into education at the University of the West of England where I discovered I really enjoyed teaching and facilitating knowledge exchange, discussing the links between theory and practice.
When the secondment ran out I was asked to project lead the development of the Band Four Associate Practitioners. Always being keen to develop people’s confidence and skills this was a superb opportunity for me to enhance Health Care Assistance understanding, knowledge and recognising the significant role they play within health care delivery.
In order to continue with the educational career pathway I completed my degree in child and adolescent mental health. I had always been intrigued by the idea of early interventions and wanted to look at the concept of developing resilience in children and young people.
Developing this theme I am now fortunate enough to have a faculty lead role in Widening Participation. Although this took me away from core mental health it very much supported my idea of generating resilience, as it looks to engage young people and mature learners into Higher Education that would not normally have taken this route. As it was part time it meant I could keep my hand in regarding mental health and move back if I found I did not enjoy it. Luckily I delight in the role; it gives me the same satisfaction as I have always felt whilst working within practice. I have now completed my masters in this area.
My affiliation to the MHNA started about 10 years ago when I came across the South West conference. This was a free conference with an opportunity to network with other clinicians from mental health. It was the only specific union that looked at mental health at that time.
Following on from that with my academic post, I was asked if I would be interested in being part of the MHNA journal which I have found fascinating and it is now a privilege to chair this dynamic, informed and dedicated board.