"In recent years, the recovery approach and the idea of empowerment have firmly established themselves in mental health services. This means that people taking advantage of these services are active participants and in charge of their treatment", says Páll Biering, Associate Professor in Psychiatric Nursing and lead researcher of an international group of scholars developing new teaching materials for psychiatric nursing.
Representatives of six international universities are part of the project. "A conversation with a Finnish colleague, with whom I have worked for years, mainly in collaborative projects of Russian and Nordic educators in the field of nursing, sparked the idea for the project. We met Brenda Happell, Professor of Nursing at the University of Canberra in Australia. She is the leading expert on the active participation of mental health service users in their own treatment", says Páll about how the project came to be.
"As part of our project, we want to expand the aspect of empowerment so that it becomes part of the education of those who will provide mental health services in the future. New teaching materials and methods for psychiatric nursing will be developed in collaboration with those seeking out mental health services. With this approach, we hope to train nursing staff who are better prepared to meet the needs of mental health service users. We also want to increase interest in psychiatric nursing as a desirable speciality", says Páll.
Páll hopes, furthermore, that the experience gained from this project can be used to develop teaching materials for other nursing fields in collaboration with healthcare service users.
Páll has not only used his expertise in the field of psychiatric nursing for the benefit of Icelandic students and patients. He has also made a difference through his involvement with the Red Cross. "One of my reasons for studying nursing was my wanderlust. I knew that such an education would give me the opportunity to work internationally", says Páll, who learned about the work of the Red Cross through a research project in which he was involved for the organisation. Later, he attended a course for prospective international delegates.
Before Christmas 2015, Páll went to Greece on behalf of the Red Cross to provide help for the large number of refugees who had fled from the Middle East. "My job was to offer them psychological support and information, but also to help colleagues with general healthcare services. During other missions, I provided psychological support for Red Cross staff and volunteers, evaluated the mental health needs of the organisation, and provided psychological first aid training", Páll explains, pointing out that his experience with the Red Cross has proven useful for teaching at the University. "It has allowed me to expand the scope of my teaching, for example, by teaching culture-based healthcare services and global mental health", Páll adds at the end of the interview.