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Let’s talk about mental health with blogger Kayleigh McManus

Kayleigh McManus pictured left on her graduation day

Newly qualified mental health nurse Kayleigh McManus has been blogging for two years to raise awareness of mental health and self-care.

Her work has recently been recognised by the Nursing Standard, a journal for health professionals, and she has started writing for the journal to share her experiences wider.

Kayleigh from Workington, works for Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust on Yewdale Ward, an acute mental health inpatient unit at West Cumberland Hospital, Whitehaven. She qualified from Edge Hill University in 2018 where she began blogging in her second year.

Tell us about your blog

I’ve always enjoyed writing so my blog began as a hobby but I quickly found that the number of people reading it was growing. I was getting positive feedback and it became a way to get more people talking about mental health. I write about my own experiences from placements and my current job. When my audience grew I started working with companies to review products on my blog too, but always with a self-care focus.

I now have around 500-600 readers on my website each day and I get some lovely feedback. It’s a really good community online and has opened up a number of new friendships with other bloggers – for example I’ve been talking to one blogger who was previously an inpatient on a mental health ward and is now sharing his reflections in a daily blog. So it’s a great place to hear experiences from lots of different perspectives.

My blog is aimed at young adults, most of whom aren’t health professionals. I write in a chatty, informal style – I want it to be fun to read. I think it’s important for everyone to be able to talk about mental health and learn more about it, as it’s something that can affect any of us.

I like to try to spark a debate and encourage people to think differently. Sometimes my topics are a little controversial so I always make sure to cover both sides and keep it balanced. I do give my opinions and use my professional experience but I’m careful not to give these as facts. There’s always more to learn from new ideas and approaches; I enjoy learning from the conversations my blog can start.

How did you begin working with the Nursing Standard?

I share my blog on social media and my union, the Royal Collage of Nursing, saw my posts on Twitter and pointed me towards the Nursing Standard. I wrote my first article for the journal in January which was an alternative look at schizophrenia, based on one of my placements. A gentleman I worked with heard a positive voice who motivated and encouraged him. In my article I explore this example of how sometimes we need to look at things completely differently to provide the best care and challenge our preconceptions around mental health.

I’m working on my next article around self-esteem groups on wards. In one of my placements as a second year student nurse I helped to run a self-esteem group called ‘Kind Mind’ which, after several weeks of working closely with the same people, appeared to lead to positive impacts on their confidence and mood.

What are your future plans for nursing and writing?

I’m already looking at how I can keep learning and develop my career. I’m looking into doing a masters and mentorship training and see myself going into talking therapies in the future.
I hope to continue writing for the Nursing Standard and cover more controversial topics to get people thinking and give me a chance to reflect on my experiences. I’ll continue writing my blog to spark more conversations and continue to raise awareness of mental health.

What message would you give this time to talk day?

Don’t be scared of what people might think and if you’re struggling it doesn’t matter who you talk to. Talking to anyone – a friend, family or health professional – is the first step, the important thing is that you’re talking to someone.

How did you get into Mental Health Nursing and why did you choose Cumbria?

I was always interested in nursing but it was my psychology teacher at school that suggested I look into mental health nursing. I didn’t know much about mental health but I did my research and decided this was the career for me, and I haven’t looked back.

When I graduated I decided to move back to Cumbria to be closer to family and when I applied for a job on Yewdale I was immediately struck by the atmosphere on the ward. The relationship between staff and patients is fantastic and I knew it was the kind of place I wanted to work.

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