The Critical Mental Health Nurses Network
The CMHNN has been formed by a group of critically minded nurses and student nurses and has attracted substantial attention since its launch in April 2015. It is a network in which anyone who is interested in the quality of mental health nursing may participate.
We have a number of aims, but all of them stem from a growing awareness of the contested nature of the professional disciplines, the mental health system and the legal frameworks which support it.
We have been pleased to establish links with other critical mental health professional groups, but we are not looking to duplicate them. It is to the practice, culture and environment of mental health nursing that we want to direct our critical thinking.
We are aware that thinking critically within mental health nursing has a long and distinguished history, examining the assumptions of models and refusing the narrow focus of other disciplines. We find it meaningful to reaffirm that we are the only mental health profession with a remit to be with those in distress and that this is key. We object to the dominance of the medical model of psychiatry and we view all models as having the capacity to make other forms of thinking and ways of being less visible and less possible. We see much to be gained in moving towards approaches which increase the importance of personal meanings in the lives of those we serve, although we do not view the gains of psychology uncritically. We are also aware that many nurses are isolated and described as having unacceptable ideas whenever they stray from the rhetoric of the ward round or MDT and the targets generated by spreadsheets. We share a view which is growing across the critical mental health landscape that mental health services are subject to a neoliberal agenda and corporate interests. We believe it is morally wrong to present students, our colleagues, service-users and carers with a pretence that mental health is a cohesive and uncontroversial field. However, we acknowledge that it is not acceptable to merely pass the conceptual conflicts down through the professions, to nurses and then on to our service users.
Several of the founding members of our network have found inspiration within survivor movements, activism and in particular, the Hearing Voices Network, and acknowledge a debt we have to them. There is much to learn from their expertise and we stand with all those who acknowledge that the personal is political.
We are continuing to work together to explore what might be meant by the phrase ‘Critical Mental Health Nursing’. We are interested in the content of nurse education, in learning from the critical voices in other disciplines and survivor organisations, in the current resurgence of debate about the efficacy and safety of psychiatric medications, and we want to gather examples of different and more critical nursing practice around the country and beyond. We have chosen to be a network rather than simply an organisation because we see so much need for individuals to link together to find new ideas and solidarity.
For further information about our aims, please see the Nursing and Midwifery Council Code of Conduct
. It continues to be an inspirational document for us.
Please contact us to share your thoughts about the future plans of the Critical Mental Health Network. We are always looking for writers who can send us posts; personal stories, referenced articles, book reviews, conference reports. As a critical network we value good questions as much as good answers. Join in! Network!