Many mental health care professionals unaware of support available to them

Despite the nature of their work, over a third of professionals providing mental healthcare services appear to be unaware of the mental health support structures that are available to them, a recently-published study has found.

A survey of such professionals was included in the latest annual report by the Office of the Commissioner for Mental Health, which highlighted that the provision of care in the mental health sector can be extremely stressful.

While the office said that it was positive for management to provide the necessary support services for staff – and that staff aware of them rated them positively – the high proportion of staff unaware of their existence was worrying.

“It is a system failure if management fails to advertise these services properly or facilitate their uptake. Like any other individual, such persons may have worries relating to confidentiality, stigma and negative consequences if they attempt to seek assistance. Particular attention needs to be given to allay such understandable anxieties,” the office maintained.

Over a quarter unhappy with colleague or patient behaviour

The office noted that a major factor affecting mental health at the workplace was how staff members got on with each other. However, 28% of respondents reported being unhappy with how a colleague acted towards them in the previous month.

An identical proportion also reported being unhappy with how a patient had acted towards them in the previous month. Foreign workers were far more likely to report this.

Additionally, 14% said that they were unhappy with how a colleague acted towards a patient under their care.

The office of the commissioner said that staff should be encouraged further and better empowered to report any perceived shortcomings to management to allow proper investigation of incidents and appropriate addressing of any findings.

“This would hopefully reduce such incidents, assist in improving staff morale, and improve safeguarding of patient rights,” the office said.

Most see need for further training

The majority of staff felt a need for training on mental health care, with 70% of general nurses and allied health care professionals and about 50% of psychologists and social workers agreeing.

56% of nurses saw the need for further training in general medical or nursing care.

59% of all respondents felt that there was a need for training on patients’ rights, and in total, 49% saw the need for de-escalation training. The office said that it was particularly notable that an overwhelming majority of hospital nurses with less than 5 years’ work experience in mental health care felt the need for training in de-escalation techniques, possibly indicating a need for training and support to build their confidence as they begin working in mental health services.