What mental health nurses have to say about themselves: A discourse analysis [2020]

Mental health nursing is largely invisible within public discourse. When mentioned at all in news media, it is usually a signifier of an occupation connoting where a nurse works. There is rarely a presumption of expertise in any sphere or articulation of a unique skill set or defining features which differentiate the mental health nurse from other nurses. This paper sought to examine the professional discourse around mental health nursing as inferred from a review of papers published in the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing in 2019. A discourse analysis of full‐text papers (n = 117) was undertaken exploring references to mental health nurses or nursing and what this communicated about the field. The discourse clustered around three themes: The invisible or absent mental health nurse, ambiguous and blended identities, and a group of low attributed value and sophistication. There were few examples of authors presenting mental health nurses in a way which counters stereotypes of the dominant discourse about mental health nurses as a lesser skilled occupational group. Academics, editors, authors, and practitioners are urged to contribute to the construction of discourse around mental health nursing expertise which differentiates it from other branches of nursing and other distinctive disciplines.

Richard Lakeman DNSci, FACMHN; John Hurley PhD, FACMHN
International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 17 August 2020