Mental health nurses work in a highly specialised field, caring for people with many different types of mental illnesses or disorder. The mental health nurse's primary focus is to work alongside people and their carers to overcome the symptoms of their illness and commence and continue their personal recovery. Responsibilities include protecting the rights of their consumer and supporting the consumer’s families and carers. A mental health nurse's work is not confined to a hospital setting and often extends to local health centres, small residential units, people's homes and the community.
As a mental health nurse you will have opportunities to interact with a diverse group of people from all backgrounds experiencing a range of mental illness and disorders including psychosis, depression and bi-polar disorder. Mental health nurses work within a multi-disciplinary team that may include psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists and GPs. The mental health nurse plays a central role in the planning and delivery of care for people experiencing mental illness or disorder.
Your main tool as a mental health nurse will be the strength of your own personality and communication skills. You will need to empathise with the people you are engaged with and show warmth and care about them. Regrettably there is still some stigma attached to mental illness. Combating this and assisting the individual and their families deal with the complex nature of mental illness and disorder is a key part of the mental health nurse’s role.
Mental health nursing is an immensely satisfying career providing the opportunity to specialise in areas such as child and adolescent mental health, older persons' mental health, rehabilitation and recovery, assertive community services, drugs and alcohol or the justice system.
Mental health nurses are a critical component of a successful mental health system in NSW.
Employment of new graduate, registered and enrolled, nurses provides an invaluable entry point for nurses into the mental health workforce. Funding is provided for a range of strategies to enhance the mental health nursing workforce.

NSW Health - mental health links


Continuing professional development for nurses

Continuing professional development resources for nurses wanting to update their mental health skills.

The mental health nursing workforce/skills acquisition project

Mental health nursing currently has one key strategy - Mental Health Scholarships.
The acquisition of foundation-level knowledge and skills by nurses new to mental health through structured and consistent orientation/training programs is a priority. NSW Health has undertaken to facilitate the development of a state-wide standardised transition program that will promote safe and effective nursing practice for nurses new to mental health. This program is delivered by LHD’s to support new graduate and nurses new to mental health to consolidate the skills and knowledge required of a nurse new mental health.

Mental Health Nursing Advisory Group

The Mental Health Nursing Advisory Group is chaired by the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer. Through this peak mental health nursing group, the Mental Health Principal Adviser, representatives from each Local Health District/Specialty Network, the tertiary sector and relevant mental health and nursing organisations provide advice on mental health nursing workforce, policy and practice development strategies.

Mental Health Innovation scholarships

Mental Health Innovation scholarships are awarded for innovative nurse-led projects aimed at improving clinical care for mental health consumers.

Stress management for nurses

Stress Management for Nurses was developed by the NSW Nurses' Association and NSW Health to support nurses in their challenging work roles. This booklet is intended to heighten awareness of the mental health needs of all nurses, no matter what their specialty, and provides useful exercises to assist nurses and midwives to manage stress at work.

Contact us

For further information on mental health nursing initiatives contact the Nursing and Midwifery Office on telephone (02) 9391 9528.
Page Updated: Wednesday 12 April 2017
Contact page owner: Nursing and Midwifery