My name is Julia and I’m an Associate Professor of Mental Health
Nursing at Swansea University.

I focus on promoting positive mental health and addressing
health inequality. Public and patient involvement is central to
the way I work, with a focus on talking, listening and
communicating, in order to connect with people on their terms.

I do this because I love working with people, and everyone’s
mental health is important.

I’ve always been interested in mental
I did psychology at college and I’m
interested in what makes us tick, why
people are like they are.

I started to volunteer at a local sports
centre with people with mental health
problems. It was quite a casual
environment. People would sit around
and play Scrabble, have a couple of pints,
have a quiz. It was run by mental health
nurses and they said to me, ‘Julia, why
don’t you consider mental health nursing
as a career?’ And it was just a revelation.

I have always been very interested in
promoting positive mental health, and I’ve
always been interested in preventing mental

health problems from getting any worse.

I was able to complete my PhD as a staff
studentship part-time. That was over
seven years, well-supported by some
excellent and very knowledgeable
supervisors. And my PhD focused on
mental health, nursing and public and
patient involvement.

Knowing I had an interest in teaching and
supporting nursing students, and
knowing that I’ve always had a great
interest in research, working in a
university setting was something that I
always wanted to do and sought to do.

As a registered mental health nurse, I
support nurses who are doing their nurse
education, who are doing their student
nursing degrees, who are studying
nursing at pre-registration level. Teaching
and training others is something I’ve
always found extremely rewarding.

After my PhD I wanted to focus on an area
where I could make a significant
difference. I learned that people who are
deaf experience twice the number of
mental health problems than the hearing
population, and learning about the health
inequalities that deaf people experience,
I thought, ‘Well, this is really important!’. So
my research started there, with an
all-Wales group for deaf mental health
and wellbeing.

For me, involving people is an essential
part of what we do. I’ve spent a lot of time
over the last 10 years involving people in
nurse education. It’s really important that
our nursing students get to have contact
with local people who are representing
service users.

The service users play the role of patients,
in a university setting, so that students
can practise their communication skills,
and engage with people, and ask them all
manner of questions.

We started involving local people in nurse
education, because it’s really important
for nursing students to hear and
understand more about patients’ lived
experience. So we involve our service
users right through the nursing student
journey, from open days to interviews,
clinical assessments and communication
skills. It means they have that patient
focus right from the start.

In mental health nursing, talking and
listening is so important. It’s the majority
of what we do. We are connecting with

We think particularly about risk
assessment. How somebody can take
charge of their own risks, and how to have
difficult conversations, like how to
connect with somebody who might want
to take their own life, who might engage
in self-harming behaviour, who might use
a lot of illegal substances.

Our work can be anywhere – eating lunch
with somebody, walking across the road
with somebody, on a bus with somebody
– because we are always connecting,
observing, assessing, and seeing what the
important parts of life are for that
particular individual.

I’ve been working increasingly with the
deaf community. People who are deaf
themselves, who are part of research
groups, who are leading various projects
in the communities, and deaf people who
are wanting to do a PhD.

I believe that accessible communication
for all population groups is really
important, so I started learning British
Sign Language and continue to develop
my skills. We want nurses to be able to
communicate with a wide range of
different people and communities.