Smashing the stigma, it starts with us! A unique and personal presentation addressing how the stigma held by frontline emergency staff impacts not just on our patient’s survivability, but also our own colleague’s wellbeing

Ms Jess Morton1

1Nepean Hospital, Australia

Every 40 seconds, someone, somewhere around the world dies by suicide. Global economic projections have estimated that by 2030, mental illness will cost the world $6 trillion per annum. (World Health Organisation, 2018).

As the burden of disability and the death toll soars, so is the burden on Emergency departments around the world. Emergency frontline staff often feel inadequately trained to assess, manage and care for patients who are experiencing mental distress (Tyerman, 2014).

The manner by which nurses treat the patient and the time to which the clinician gives to obtain their relevant history has a large impact on not only that patients perception of their immediate care, but also their likelihood of continuing their care (Clarke, Dusome and Hughes, 2007). Stigma has been shown to be a significant deterrent to seeking help, especially in crisis situations. Emergency staff can play a significant role in reducing this stigma (Thornicroft, Rose and Kassam, 2007).

Conversely, professional organisations across the world are lamenting at the rising rate of burn out, mental illness and sadly, suicide amongst nurses, paramedics and doctors which are becoming more prevalent (Milner et al., 2016).

This presentation will address on how the stigma held by frontline staff impacts not just on the wider general public and their associated carers, but also on the direct wellbeing of our colleagues and their likelihood of seeking help in a crisis. The consensus of this talk was presented at the 2019 SMACC conference in Sydney in the format of an interview. It brought the theatre to silence and received overwhelming praise and positive feedback.

Utilising a unique perspective that incorporates the presenters previous and very personal experience as a mental health patient, but also now as an Emergency Nurse, this presentation will broaden delegates’ perspective of the mental health patient in the Emergency Department and learn how to recognise and change harmful stigmatising attitudes.


Jess Morton has been an Enrolled Nurse for over 13 years.  Having worked across a vast range of specialties and facilities, Jess has found her niche in Emergency Nursing whilst plodding through a Bachelor Of Paramedic Science.  Jess has served in the community engagement portfolio and as co-chair of Student Paramedics Australasia.  Jess writes a blog titled “Textbooks, Tears & Trauma” for the Prehospital Research website and has co-authored various papers for international Paramedicine journals.  She has recently won the “Enrolled Nurse of the Year award” for Nepean hospital for the annual excellence in Nursing awards.