LONDON, ONT. -- It’s a new program called Mental Health Nursing. An online graduate program available this fall at Fanshawe College.

"How it started was we kept hearing from our community partners, members of the community, our frontline nurses and practice leaders that there was a need," says Fanshawe nursing professor Dr. Sarah Benbow. 

With nurses usually being the first point of contact for the rising number of mental health patients, Benbow says it’s important that nurses felt educated in the mental health field.

"Nurses are caring for individuals with complex mental health issues, whether it’s on a medicine unit or a mental health unit, they were wanting more resources to be equipped to best care for individuals with mental health issues."

It’s not just nurses who are working with patients within the hospital, the curriculum is useful across the nursing field.

"Nurses that work in other settings in the community, primary care and long term care, they are usually the first point of contact for people and in today’s world, people are dealing with a lot of emotional distress," says Fanshawe nursing professor, Pat Bethune-Davies. 

The program, which is now accepting applications online is for registered nurses and registered practicing nurses. 

Bethune-Davies says she hopes that more mental health education will lead to better community response for those who need it.

"We hope this helps dispel the myths around mental illness and some of that stigma because mental health touches all of us."

More information about the program can be found on their website