Mental health

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Good mental health is associated with a sense of wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem. It enables us to fully enjoy and appreciate other people, day-to-day life and our environment. Nurses are the largest professional group in the mental health workforce, which places them at the forefront to lead the way in improving and providing effective mental health care.

At Sydney Nursing School, we work with clients, their families, nurses, psychologists and other services to conduct research that will support recovery from mental health disorders.

In collaboration with national and international researchers and industry partners our program of research is focused in three key areas of health policy and research priority:

  • Prevention and early intervention with at-risk groups (eg children and families living with mental illness)
  • Preventing and/or managing co-associated physical and mental health/illness (eg physical health of people with mental illness)
  • Developing the capacity of the health workforce (eg building capacity to manage challenging interpersonal health care situations).

Our research

Family-based mental healthcare

The family-based mental health initiative was launched at the St Vincent’s Campus in conjunction with Sydney Nursing School in 2016. The St Vincent’s Centre for Family Based Mental Health Care aims to help those dealing with mental health issues by linking in family members.

“Family and social networks are incredibly important factors in assisting people to cope with mental health problems. When people get a mental health illness, it’s hard to underestimate the value of connectedness with other people” said St Vincent’s Professor of Mental Health Nursing, Professor Niels Buus.

“To have trusting relationships where you can turn to in a period of crisis is incredibly important” said Professor Buus.

International research has found that the role of families in the recovery of people with mental illness is currently undervalued by clinicians. A key recovery-oriented intervention that is being introduced by the Centre will be the Open Dialogue social network intervention.

Open Dialogue is based on bringing family and social networks together when a person is in crisis. “We try to support the network in supporting the individual. There’s a double benefit and at a very basic level it’s about creating understanding so that family and social network members support each other rather than being part of the problem,” said Professor Buus.

Open Dialogue has now been implemented at Nepean Blue Mountains and St Vincent’s Hospitals. Educational courses are currently being created in order to generate clinical change. The first unit of study being delivered by Sydney Nursing School is called ‘Inter-professional engagement with families’ with another scheduled ahead of semester 1 2018, with an emphasis on inter-professional open dialogue.