What is mental health nursing?

Mental health nursing is a specialised field of nursing which focuses on working with consumers to meet their recovery goals. Mental health nurses consider the person's physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs, within the context of the individual's lived experience and in partnership with their family, significant others and the broader community.

Mental health nurses support consumers and their families during life crises and transition periods, they liaise discretely and efficiently with a range of health care providers, provide information and education on mental health maintenance and restoration, coordinate care and provide talking therapy.

Mental health nurses work across the full range of clinical and service settings, and across metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas – they play a significant role in the health care system and have the qualifications, skills and experience to provide high-quality mental health nursing care in all contexts. The mental health nursing workforce needs to be flexible and responsive and able to work with people across the lifespan, and in a variety of workplace settings.


What do mental health nurses do?

The scope of practice of mental health nurses in Australia encompasses a wide range of nursing roles, functions, responsibilities, accountabilities, activities and creativities, modalities and innovations. It is founded upon a process of ethical decision-making. This diversity is fundamental to promoting optimal physical and mental health, prevention physical and mental illness, and providing therapeutic interventions and treatment to support the physical and mental health preferences and needs of individuals, communities and population groups.

Yes, but what do mental health nurses do?!?!?

The video below, 'Mental Health Nursing - This is our Story' was developed by Natisha Sands (Deakin University) and Steve Elsom (Centre for Psychiatric Nursing, University of Melbourne) in 2015. It shows a range of mental health nurses and nursing students speaking about their role and their practice in mental health nursing. 

Mental Health Nursing: This is our Story from Light City Films on Vimeo.


How do I become a mental health nurse?

With an undergraduate degree in nursing, you can register to practice as a nurse and work in most mental health settings. However, to become a specialist mental health nurse, you need to undertake postgraduate study in mental health nursing at Graduate Diploma or Masters Level. Find out more about postgraduate mental health nursing study.

Specialist mental health nurses may also undertake additional training in specific therapies, such as couple and family therapy.

Mental Health Nurses are in demand across Australia. Scholarships to study mental health nursing are available through the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) and through each State and Territory Department of Health.

Fact Sheet about demand for mental health nurses