People in Bangor and the surrounding area are being invited to share feedback on how mental health nurses have touched their lives, ahead of the first ever national celebration of the profession later this month.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is inviting people to share their messages of thanks ahead of Mental Health Nurses’ Day on February 21st.

Submissions through social media, email or post are invited, which will be shared with mental health nursing staff working in community and inpatient services in the Bangor area.

Steve Forsyth, BCUHB’s Director of Nursing for Mental Health & Learning Disabilities, who is himself an experienced mental health nurse, said the inaugural event would provide a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the role of mental health nurses across the region.

He said: “It takes a very special sort of person to be a mental health nurse, and the contribution they make in caring for people and their families cannot be underestimated.

“We have over 700 mental health nurses working in our hospitals and community services, and I am proud of each and every one of them for the fantastic care they provide.

“There are a number of ways that people can tell us when we don’t get things right, but it’s also important to celebrate the huge positive impact that our mental health nurses and healthcare assistants make for people in our community when they need it the most.

“That’s why we’re giving people an opportunity to get in touch directly to let them know how much their hard work and care is appreciated.

“We’re inviting anyone who wants to send a message to our staff, whether an individual, team or even an entire ward or service, to please get in touch via email, Facebook, Twitter, or by post.”

Amongst those who are supporting Mental Health Nurses’ Day is Malan Wilkinson from Caernarfon, who says she wouldn’t be here today without the support of BCUHB’s mental health nurses.

She said: “I would like to thank our mental health nurses for all their hard work. Without their care and understanding, I doubt I’d still be here. The impact they have had on my life seems near immeasurable. They supported me when I needed it most, but they also gave me faith. Faith that I could come through the dark episodes by working alongside them.

“I’d especially like to thank my Community Psychiatric Nurse, June Jones, who really is a bright star. The support she’s offered has had such a significant effect on my life in periods of real adversity.”

The Royal College of Nursing’s Mental Health Nursing Day is partly a response to a drop in mental health nursing staff in the UK.

According to statistics from the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the number of mental health nurses fell from 90,693 to 88,821 between 2014 and 2018. It’s a picture that is also reflected in North Wales, where recruitment remains a key challenge.

Ed Freshwater, a mental health nurse who chairs the Royal College of Nursing’s Mental Health Forum, said: “A lot of people say they don’t know what the job involves and don’t hear enough positive stories about the specialty.

“It is a very broad profession. The people who tend to do well have got really good people skills and really rich, diverse life experiences. They’re people who have seen something in the world and would like to make a positive change.

“You’ve got to be interested in other people. It’s not the kind of thing where you just turn up, put in the hours and go home. You have to invest an element of yourself into the role.”

People are invited to send in feedback by email, via social media or by post.