Mental illness is known to occur frequently in the general population and is more common within the general health care system. High-quality health care requires nurses to have the skills, knowledge and attitudes to provide care for people experiencing mental illness or mental distress. Research suggests health professionals, including nurses, tend to share similar negative attitudes to mental illness as the general population, and consequently, mental health nursing is not a popular career path. These two factors signify a need to influence more positive attitudes toward mental illness and mental health nursing among nursing students. A qualitative exploratory research study was undertaken to examine the experiences, opinions and attitudes of an academic and research team to the introduction of a consumer academic within an undergraduate mental health nursing subject. In-depth interviews were conducted with teaching and research team members. The importance of mental health skills emerged as a major theme and included sub-themes: mental health across the health care system; contribution of consumer academic to nursing skills; addressing fear and stigma, and inspiring passion in mental health nursing. Findings suggest academic input from people with lived experience of recovery from mental illness can influence the development of mental health nursing skills and enhance the popularity of mental health nursing as a career.