Catherine Groke writes:
As a third year Mental Health Nursing student we were offered the opportunity for a small group of us to attend The Future of MentalHealth Nursing conference held in London at the O2. The objective was to bring together mental health nursing students from all over England and to inspire and motivate us. We would get to meet fellow student nurses, like minded wide eyed students who are full of ideas and brimming with potential on how to change things for the better and who want to put patient care first and create a better future for mental health services.
After eagerly booking my train tickets I looked forward to the adventure of travelling down to London. Although it was a rather early bleary eyed 5 am start, as I sat on my train large coffee in hand surrounded by business men and women in suits I felt alive and very excited for the day ahead. After navigating the London underground I arrived at the 02. Almost 500 of us gathered at our conference tables with our conference lanyards around our necks, Programme guides and 'goodie bags' in hand eagerly awaiting a full day of guest speakers. We were not disappointed. The conference began with introductions about the day ahead before the comedienne Jo Brand came onto the stage to talk about her previous career as a mental health nurse and about her training in the late seventies/ early eighties. She was interviewed by Dr Edana Minghella a lady who she trained and worked with and provided us with amusing anecdotes and tales of her life and experience as a nurse. It was both entertaining and informative as she told us how she used to work in the crisis centres of South London during the times of the Brixton riots.
Following Jo we were introduced to Justyn Rees Larcombe a former army officer who had never gambled a day in his life until he was almost 40 years old. He used a free bet and then from that point he was hooked. He gave a heart wrenching account of how his addiction and deceit caused him to loose everything, his job wife and family. He had attempted to seek help but felt he was not really understood until the love and support of his mother helped him to turn around and realise he had hit rock bottom. He has now transformed his life and now helps others. Leading on from this tale of gambling addiction we were taken on the emotional rollercoaster of listening to Tommy Whitelaw. He lost his mother to dementia and it is his life’s mission to raise awareness of dementia and to keep his mother’s memory alive. He gave a heart breaking account of the devastation dementia causes in families and told us how truly lost and isolated he felt in looking after his mother who slowly but surely lost a piece of herself at a time which could never be returned. There was not a dry eye in the house as he described his pain and experience of being a doting and caring son looking after his mother and the feelings of desperation he must have felt. He encouraged us to sign his pledge and name what we promise to do now as future nurses caring for someone with dementia.
After a small spot of lunch and networking opportunity the rest of the day provided more speakers from a variety of backgrounds who talked about research in mental health, the role of social media, the importance of networking and the role of the modern mental health nurse in a world where there is an increasing amount of drug and alcohol misuse. After a very long day we finished in the 02 VIP lounge where we enjoyed a complementary drink or two and mixed with other student nurses. Overall this was a fantastic opportunity, I left London that night feeling exhausted but inspired and motivated to be the best nurse that I can be.