Here to offer a little help

Mental health work a lesson in humanity

By Zsa-Zsa Bowie Wilson

Working in mental health is often a far cry from what people expect, says Queensland nurse Todd Bagshaw.

"One in five people deal with a mental illness at some point in their life so the reality is you’re dealing with normal people," he explains.

Todd, who has been a nurse for 20 years, has spent the last 15 years working at the mental health unit at The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane.

"I really enjoy the people contact and making a situation for someone more tolerable or getting another person though the recovery process and seeing them later on living well and successfully – it’s rewarding."

A typical day for Todd kicks off with him doing a round of the hospital followed by seeing patients who have been referred to the unit by their GP or other doctors.

This morning he has just assessed a lady with depression and worked out with the team of psychiatrists how they can help her best.

"Some patients come in for a short time and go back to community treatment with their GP and a psychiatrist. Long term patients may need psychiatric intensive care and then move to the community care ward where they can be rehabbed to go back into the community."

Todd decided to specialise in mental health while nursing at The Royal Adelaide Hospital in South Australia.

"I was working in emergency, during a time when a lot of psychiatric areas were closing, and we didn’t know how to look after the psych patients who were coming in."

He moved to Glenside hospital to specialise in psychiatry before relocating to Queensland to take up a role in the mental health unit at The Prince Charles Hospital.

"As a mental health nurse you need to have a good understanding of psychiatry, medication and counselling skills. You also need to remain calm at all times and be a good communicator and listener as psychiatry is all about finding out how people think," he explained.

"A great deal of common sense is also important. You need to pull out the issues without making things too complicated."

The Prince Charles hospital is holding a mental health careers and information session on the 19th June at the Kedron-Wavell services club in Chermside, Brisbane. For more information call 07 3139 4920

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