Mental health and mums 

30 June 2020

Child and family health nurse and midwife Mary-Clare O’Dell says mental health is “absolutely’’ an issue in her profession.

Pictured: Nurse and Midwife Mary-Clare O'Dell with Caitlyn and baby Frankie.
Picture courtesy of Russell Millard Photography.

“We are seeing more and more clients, young women, families, and also the area of perinatal mental health is really growing in its requirements,’’ Ms O’Dell says.

“I suppose postnatal depression and anxiety is the big one and without checking the statistics I imagine it is probably the most common.

“We screen for postnatal depression knowing that it occurs within the community, between one in 10 and one in three women who have a baby will develop postnatal depression.

“But, of course, people with pre-existing or chronic mental health conditions also have children, so we certainly work with clients who might have a pre-existing mental health condition like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and support them in their parenting.’’

Ms O’Dell, who works for Child and Family Services – part of the Women’s and Children’s Health Network - and also as a casual midwife, is one of seven successful applicants to be awarded an ANMF (SA Branch) Mental Health Nursing Start-Up Scholarship, which funds the full cost of three modules studied through ANMEC.

ANMF (SA Branch) has teamed up with Flinders University to make it easier than ever for nurses to transition into post-graduate studies in mental health, among a range of other specialties.

This initiative provides nurses with more streamlined access to post-graduate studies at Flinders University by enabling them to springboard from a related Continuing Professional Development (CPD) course at our Australian Nursing and Midwifery Education Centre (ANMEC).

The scholarship comes at an opportune time for Ms O’Dell. She had inquired about a mental health nursing course at Flinders University at the start of the year, but all places were already taken.

“So when the scholarships came up through the ANMF it just seemed like a really wonderful opportunity and I was lucky enough to get it,’’ she says.

“Interestingly when I did my undergraduate degree in Queensland, I finished in 1992, our undergraduate degree prepared us for nursing registration as a general nurse and also as a psychiatric nurse on the separate register.

“So I felt like I had a really good grounding in mental health nursing from an academic point of view but I have never practised as a mental health nurse and so I really wanted to revisit that to gain some formal training.

“And as I’ve mentioned previously we’re seeing more and more clients with complexities around mental health that I felt a formal qualification would be really useful.

“So currently what I would do in my role is make referrals and work with other agencies that are dedicated mental health services, but it always improves your ability to refer and to identify maybe declining mental health or opportunities to promote improvements to mental health by having specialised skills in the area.

“The Women’s and Children’s Health Network, I’ve done the perinatal mental health course, and so it’s seeking to build on that with that formal qualification as well,’’ Ms O’Dell says.

“I have felt that I would really like to improve my formal skills in the mental health nursing area for a long time. So certainly I would anticipate using it within my current practice but also that’s not to say that I wouldn’t rule out moving into a mental health service because I do work with quite a few midwives who support young mums who also are experiencing mental health issues.’’

To take advantage of the ANMF (SA Branch)-Flinders University mental health partnership, please complete the Expression of Interest in the link below and our administration team will be in contact with you.