Nursing students play part in reducing stigma around mental health

Published:11 October 2018

Top image: The group of CQUniversity Bachelor of Nursing students who recently participated in a mental health recovery camp. Back row (left to right): Amie Vella, Louise Rawlins, Jill Pocock, Claudia Luck, Kirsty Wilding-Davies, Kaitlyn Davies, Damian Kauwhata and Edward Aquin (Clinical Facilitator). Front row (left to right): Gayle Anderson, Michelle van den Broek and Vanessa Peat. Middle image: Camp participants tested their cooking skills at a damper making class. Bottom image: Art classes helped to showcase the more creative side of camp participants.

Despite mental illness affecting more than one in five Australians, many don’t seek help because of stigma.

In a bid to help students see mental health in a different light, CQUniversity recently partnered with the University of Wollongong to offer its Bachelor of Nursing students a chance to participate in a five-day recovery camp.

The initiative acts as an accredited clinical placement experience for students, while providing a recovery-orientated experience for those living with a mental illness.

From rock climbing to Tai Chi, the camp program aims to challenge, build camaraderie and provide opportunities for attendees to learn from one another.

Participating CQUniversity Nursing student Michelle van den Broek said the camp gave her the opportunity to work with mental health consumers in a non-clinical environment.

“I work in emergency services, so it was lovely to spend quality one-on-one time with people, and have the time to absorb their lived experiences in a beautiful natural environment,” she said.

“The camp provided a safe outlet for mental health consumers who were looking to escape the real world – one full of judgement and stigmatism.

“It also helped to empower the participating mental health consumers. Watching a 65-year-old woman with an inherent fear of heights attempt and accomplish the rock wall, and later in the week, with her injection of bravado, complete the abseil was inspirational!

“I soon realised that mental health consumers are just people, like you and I. Instead, the differences are found in coping mechanisms and support networks.

“Participation also made evident that I belong to a wonderful cohort of CQUniversity students who are clearly going to make superb nurses.

“Every participating student showcased a great deal of genuine care and empathy towards each other and the camp’s mental health consumers.

“It's a shame our little society that existed at camp doesn't reflect the broader communities attitudes towards mental health.”

Michelle said the truly rewarding experience had enticed her to learn more about mental health.

“Initially, I had no interest in working in mental health, however, this environment opened my mind to it,” she said.

“Critical care lies at the heart of my ambition, but gaining further expertise in the field of mental health goes hand-in-hand in the safe delivery of critical care in today's world.

“I feel like I have only touched the tip of the iceberg.

“If anyone is considering attending an opportunity like this, I strongly recommend it. It will open your mind and make to see mental health in a different light.”

If you’re a CQUniversity Bachelor of Nursing student who is keen to be involved, the next mental health recovery camp opportunity will be advertised in June 2019.