It is estimated that almost half of us will experience mental health issues at some point in our lifetime. According to recent research by the Australian Government, there will be a strong demand for health care and social assistance over the next five to 10 years.
Associate Professor Philip Maude from RMIT University said although nurses can successfully provide this care, patients benefit most from professionals who can provide specialised skills.
"Any nurse can work as a mental health registered nurse, however a specialised postgraduate qualification can provide better health outcomes for the patient as well as expanded career opportunities for the nurse," Maude says.
"Training for practitioners has progressed significantly since 1955 when the first graduate psychiatric health nurses emerged.
"Quality specialist training, together with the advent of anti-psychotic and anti-depressant drugs, has greatly improved patient outcomes since then.
"At the same time, expertise in the effects and side effects of the new psychopharmacology has also had a significant impact on the role of the mental health nurse."
Maude says recent changes in mental health legislation have further defined the role of mental health nursing.
"Developments in assessment and treatment and the recovery focused care we now provide has changed the way we work with people who have experienced mental illness," he says.
"This evolution has been pivotal in mental health nursing."