Q&A With NHS Mental Health Nurse Andy Halligan

Written by Lucas Whitehead

Mar 4, 2021

March 4, 2021


1- What made you want to get into Mental Health and become a Mental Health Nurse?

I used to be an electrician as well as a musician before I became a Mental Health nurse. Although I was very lucky to see and be a part of a few things that I am very proud of now, I could also see a lot of people, I was close to at that time, really suffering in silence. This world I was involved in was very masculine and mental health was never spoken about, it was almost forbidden to mention mental illness, as if it was a sign of weakness. I went through some very difficult times myself and suffered for a long time with severe depression but after recovering, I thought that if I can break that masculine cycle that I was in, I may be able to help others who are struggling in a similar way. This is what started my journey to becoming a mental health nurse; to just try and help others.

2.) How big is the stigma surrounding openness with regards to Mental Health and how does this affect your profession on a day to day basis? 

Even though it seems that things are getting better, and I think they are in general through society with the help of media campaigns; I think there is still a long way to go, especially for men who are suffering in silence. The stigma is probably the worst thing of all. Not only does it stop people accessing the support they really need but it can also hinder people from properly understanding mental health. Often, people will not seek support or professional help until their symptoms have become really serious. Others will disengage from services and therapeutic interventions or stop taking medication; which in turn can lead to many more difficulties, such as relapse as well as delaying recovery.  

3.) What are the main general differences in speaking to Male Patients and Female Patients? 

Mental health problems affect both men and women equally, but women seem to be more willing or able to seek help and talk to others about their struggles. I know it’s a lot more complex than this but according to The Office for National Statistics, Psychiatric Morbidity report; due to stigma, men are also more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to ‘fix’ their problems instead of talking or reaching out to someone, which can lead to many more and different social problems. Contrarily, women are at a much greater risk of poor mental health through different struggles such as abuse. However, it seems that women’s readiness to talk about their feelings is a big contributing factor that better protects their mental health. 

4.) How important are groups such as Andy’s Man Club in providing additional support to individuals who are currently seeking medical assistance for Mental Health issues?

It’s incredible what groups like Andy’s Man Club are doing. The hardest step to recovery can be that first initial step, to get past the barrier of struggling alone. But not only that, the process of recovery can be complex. Each individual’s journey will normally contain many setbacks, occasional relapses and countless psychological difficulties but with the right support that groups such as Andy’s Man Club are providing, real change is achievable and gives so much hope, that we all need. 

5.) How important is it to speak to friends, family, peers and professionals about Mental Health issues? 

It’s really important. Speaking from my own experience, I really wish I reached out and spoke to someone a lot earlier. It felt like the biggest weight off my shoulders when I just told someone I was struggling and soon realised I wasn’t alone; and that these problems where actually really common. No matter what you’re going through and no matter how dark/tough things get, try to remember that better days will come and there is so much help and support out there.

6.) What would your words of advice be to any individual suffering from Mental Health issues who may be fearful of seeking help and support?

I know it’s not easy and just getting through each day can be a big achievement in itself sometimes but if you’re really struggling, or if things start to become overwhelming, please reach out and talk to someone. You’re never alone. Our minds can be our own worst enemy at times and talking is a great way to take some of that weight off of our shoulders. Even if you don’t feel comfortable talking to friends or family, there are NHS Talking Therapies available which are a free, effective and confidential way to deal with any mental health issue you may be going through. You can ask your GP for a referral to NHS Talking Therapies, or if you prefer, you can self-refer via nhs.uk/talk where you’ll be able to work through any feelings of anxiety or depression with a trained therapist.

7.) How would you advise someone who might be looking to get into the mental health profession in the NHS?

Though it can be difficult at times, and if you’ve never studied at college or university before, like I hadn’t, it can feel daunting but I would recommend it to anyone.  When you see one of your patients in full recovery and living an independent, happy life, through positive changes that your work has directly influenced, it can be very rewarding. It doesn’t matter what age you are either; we all have the ability to help others through our own past and lived experiences. If more males were to become mental health nurses, we will have the ability to better help society overcome the stigma together which will further prevent suicide rates/mental suffering that is currently happening every day across the country. 

To attend a session or find out more about Andy’s Man Club, email info@andysmanclub.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help

Andy Halligan is a part of the We Are The NHS Campaign supporting National Careers Week. To find out more about a career in the NHS, please search ‘NHS Careers’ or visit ‘We are the NHS’ to find available roles and training support on offer.

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