Inside ACMHN 2022: The power of community and connection
The College’s International Mental Health Nursing Conference is rapidly approaching – and what better way to get ourselves excited than to hear from our fantastic orator and keynote speakers? In our Inside ACMHN2022 series, we let them take the reins to tell you about mental health nursing in a climate of change, and what to expect at the conference.
In this Q&A Doctor Christopher Patterson talks about the silver lining of COVID-19 and what inspired his keynote presentation.
- This year’s conference theme is ‘Mental health nursing in a climate of change’. What is some of the most significant change that you’ve witnessed over the last few years?
Two things stand out for me. There appears to be a wider acceptance and openness in the community to talk about mental health, mental illness, and suicide – particularly in the last few years in relation to covid and other traumatic events. It’s a positive thing to see and to know we can keep building on. And the other stand out is the growing leadership, presence, and rightful empowerment and recognition of people with lived experience of mental illness in areas like education, research, peer advocacy, and health service.
- What are you looking forward to the most about attending the ACMHN conference?
Simply being with people – colleagues, friends, nurses, researchers – and celebrating what we do. It’s still a novel thing to be with people. I’m looking forward to it.
- What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing mental health nurses at the moment?
The same challenges all of nursing and health care are experiencing right now. There are so many nursing voices, and consumer voices, telling us that right now the health system is in real, deep crisis.
- You are one of the leading minds behind the Recovery Camp – a recovery-focused initiative which invites individuals with a lived experience of mental illness to participate in a five-day therapeutic recreation camp. Your initiative is rooted in community. How have you personally maintained a sense of community during the COVID-19? How has COVID-19 shaped your work with Recovery Camp?
It was a challenge. The lockdowns brought with them an instant loss of community and connection – and this was really felt by all. It was a very challenging time, and for some it’s still going on.
For Recovery Camp, which is all about people coming together and all about building community, we suddenly could no longer deliver our core service. This at a time when people needed it the most.
We knew how much Recovery Camp meant to a lot of people, and we wanted to keep connected as much as possible. So, through covid lockdowns, we developed a number of different online spaces and programs to keep connected to people. Everything from simple online drop-ins, to structured online education or online group game sessions.
The RC team worked really hard to bring camps back as soon as we safely could. It’s been really great having them back and reconnecting with a lot of people. And now, even though the camps are back on, those online programs keep going to help us keep connected to people between camps. They’ve also helped us connect to people from further away, interstate, and lead those people to come to camps.
- You will be one of our keynote speakers for the conference. From where do you take your inspiration for your speech?
I am very lucky and thankful to be involved in something as loved and impactful as Recovery Camp. I get to share stories from students and people with lived experiences that remind us all of the simple power of community and connection. It is a real honour to not only be a part of the stories – but then to also share them. And to be doing it with Andrew, someone who has been part of the Recovery Camp family for many years now is really something meaningful to me.