The World Health Organization defines health as a sound state of the body in terms of social, physical and mental well-being and not just the absence of diseases. This therefore implies that the three aspects of health have to be considered in defining a person’s health status. Variation of any one of them undermines the ability of the body to function effectively, resulting into medical complications (Bury, 2005).
However, due to a wide range of factors, people become sick or go through life experiences, which undermine their health either physically, mentally or socially. These present varying complications even as alternative approaches are considered to stabilize the situation. Think of a person who is mentally handicapped? How does it feel? Do medical practitioners, especially nurses get affected when they are handling people with mental disability or infection?
This essay explores some of the experiences witnessed when nursing a patient with mental illness, a practice that is considered to be quite essential in any nursing situation. Most of the experiences discussed in this analysis focus on nursing experiences. Additionally, the essay will expound the issue of patient stigmatization, which is common, and affects millions of patients with mental sickness around the globe. In synthesizing the issue, more emphasis will be put on strategies that have to be adopted in order to deal with the issue and ensure that patients with mental problems remain acceptable in the society. To achieve this task, relevant and up-to-date information will be sourced from class text books and journal articles.
Before one can effectively take care of a patient with a mental problem, it is imperative to understand the concept of mental health in terms of what it entails in life. By definition, mental health refers to ones cognitive wellbeing. It encompasses an array of factors, which include but not limited to behavior, thinking and feeling (Bury, 2005). Being mentally healthy can be described as being free from mental disorders, which destabilize the mind. According to research, millions of people around the world are prone to mental sickness, varying from one country to another. Among all developed countries, it has been found that the United States has the highest percentage of people who are likely to suffer mentally in their lifetime (Bury, 2005).
Like other aspects of human health, mental health widely affects the entire life of a person. For instance, a mentally sick person may equally experience physical challenges or develop unacceptable social attributes, which undermine his or ability to fit in the society (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). In this line of thought, it suffices to mention that mental health is directly linked to one’s potential to find happiness and fulfillment in life. In other words, it augments the ease with which a person finds a balance between daily events and emotional flexibility.
As mentioned above, different countries have varying statistics for people who get affected mentally every year. This due to the fact that mental stability and wellness depends on other variables, which may uniquely influence a given population. For example, under-developed countries allocate minimal resources to mental health services, thus exposing citizens to the risk of experiencing mental disturbance (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).
Instead of establishing an elaborate system of providing mental health services, these economies redirect their efforts towards maintaining those that are affected through feeding programs and medical support. It is highly recommended for governments around the world to incorporate mental health into general health routines to enhance the mental wellbeing of people and minimize factors that predispose certain related disorders.
Due to countless factors which human beings are exposed to, it is doubtless to mention that every person is prone to experiencing mental problems irrespective of our age, sex, race and social status among other factors. Importantly, all psychiatric hospitals around the world register thousands of people annually, with some extreme cases leading to death (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). This therefore means that statistics of people who get affected mentally demonstrate a high variance value due to existing differences in determining factors.
People who suffer from mental illness or disturbance require full support due to their inability to remain independent and live a normal life. This support mostly comes from family members or medical practitioners especially in cases where they are hospitalized or are being looked after by a specialist (Edward et al., 2011). When one is taking care of patients who are mentally handicapped, it is essential to understand some common mental disorders, which affect our society today.
For example, anxiety disorder is classified as the most common mental illness that affects millions of people from all walks of life (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). It is mainly connected to circumstances in a sufferer’s life, which expose him to acute fear that is medically referred to as anxiety. It has been found that people with anxiety disorder have a general tendency of avoiding activities or situations, which may create a window for them to experience fear in life. Common examples of anxiety disorders include but not limited to phobias, panic disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Post-traumatic stress disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).
Another common class of mental illnesses is defined under mood disorders. They are also called depression or effective disorders. Patients who get affected with these disorders experience mood swings that are linked to depression. The good news about this class of disorders is that most patients who get support respond positively. Examples of mood disorders include bipolar disorder, major depression and dysthymia among others (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). In addition, schizophrenia affects millions of people around the world and support for those that are affected is equally important. This may be described as a combination of several disorders or simply a single mental disorder that alters the wellbeing of a person.
Furthermore, Schizophrenia is considered as one of the most complex known disorders, and may manifest in general ways. Research has also revealed that it is more prevalent among people ranging from fifteen to twenty-five years (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). From a nursing stance, patients with schizophrenia experience immense difficulties in processing of any information to interpret the environment.
This is attributed to the fact that patients develop fragmented thoughts as the disorder manifests itself and develops to advanced stages. Unlike other disorders, schizophrenia can be manifested positively or negatively (Edward et al., 2011). Hallucinations and thought disorders are common symptoms of the positive version of schizophrenia. In contrast, negative schizophrenia is manifested through mood imbalances and discouragement. All these disorders present scenarios and cases that need intervention and support, similar to that accorded people suffering from other illnesses (Cloud, 2012).
Caring mentally sick
There is no doubt that giving care to a mentally sick person can be the most frustrating task to face in life as a parent, sibling or nurse (Edward et al., 2011). How do these people cope with a wide range of cases? The experience of a psychiatric nurse is characterized by the life of their patients. What about patients? Do they face any challenges? Based on the symptoms of most disorders that affect the mind, it is clear that both nurses and patients experience an array of challenges.
Nurses who have the responsibility of taking care of a sick person can be referred to as caregivers. Similarly, the term is used to denote people who provide support to the sick at home or in care centers. Depending on the diseases affecting a person, nurses are exposed to several experiences (Edward et al., 2011). With their task revolving around offering support to the sick, they have no option but deliver the best services to allow the mental situation of the patient to stabilize. As a nurse, it is mandatory to ensure that mentally sick people eat correctly; timely and balanced. Aside from this, nurses promote sanitation by bathing the sick or ensuring that their environment is free from any health threats that may arise due to the presence of unmanaged dirt (Bryant, Knights & Salerno, 2007).
For this to happen, communication between the nurse and the patient cannot be bypassed. It allows the nurse to establish a relationship with the patient in order to offer relevant assistance based on communicated requests through words or signs. It therefore follows that this link maybe impossible especially in cases where there is a communication barrier between the two parties (Bryant, Knights & Salerno, 2007). As mentioned earlier, most disorders that affect human mental health lead to mood imbalances and fragmentation of thoughts. When this occurs, complex situations arise since the nurse may not understand the patient.
Mood swings are highly associated with silence and arrogance, attributes which mostly undermine communication and understanding (Lester & Duchar, 2012). As result, nurses are likely to offer ineffective or wrong support that may worsen the situation. Due to this communication gap, nurses may also find difficulty in understanding the feelings of the patients and may advance into hostility between the nurse and the patient.
Besides poor communication and understanding, nurses also experience caregiver stress. What does this mean? Nurses experience challenges in striking a balance between care-giving and other personal tasks that may include taking care of her or his family on a daily basis (Lester & Duchar, 2012). This imbalance emanates from demands of patients, which may be too overwhelming to be met. In such extreme cases, burnout occurs, rendering the nurse irrelevant to his or her professional tasks. Caregiver stress is manifested through anger, frustrations and a constant feeling of guilt (Cloud, 2012). This undermines the ability of a nurse to assist a mentally sick patient and may worsen the situation if no intervention is considered.
Stigma and mental health
When a person is diagnosed with a mental problem, many are treated with negative tags by family members, workmates and other members of the society. The situation is even worse when such tags are from nurses and other medical experts, who are supposed to help patients to stabilize their mental wellness. This notion brings about what is commonly referred to as stigma. By definition, it denotes regular behavior or traits of a person, which trigger negativity from people around (Covarrubias & Han, 2011). It is a common phenomenon in the field of medicine where patients are viewed negatively by members of the society. When mental problems are coined in form of negative labels, patients get affected because the tag is harmful. In fact, any form of stigmatization is considered to be disrespect and discrimination (Smith & Cashwell, 2010).
Above all, stigma is a major barrier witnessed in mental health. This barrier prevents patients from being bold to seek necessary assistance from community members or relevant authorities (Covarrubias & Han, 2011). Based on the fact that every person is prone to developing a mental problem in life, many people fear seeking medical attention because of negative labels. This makes it hard for early intervention, since most illnesses require early attention. Stigma on mental illness may also deny victims a chance to be employed or serve in certain positions because of the unfairly earned image. It is also important to note that stigmatization of mental illness is propagated by the media, when this class of patients are portrayed as violent (Covarrubias & Han, 2011). As a result, the public views them as social misfits and develop fear towards them.
Based on the fact that mental health is an imperative aspect of human health, there is every need to fight stigmatization of mental illnesses. Nevertheless, this war can be won through several approaches, which are workable and realistic. Public awareness about mental health is important in informing people how they can be treated (Bathje & Pryor, 2011). During these forums, it is important for the authorities to emphasize the need of seeking medication early enough to avoid severe effects.
Additionally, it has to clearly come out that mental illness is not inability; mentally sick patients need to be respected like other healthy human beings. In the same line of thought, nurses should be discouraged from discriminating patients on the basis of their mental shortcomings (Bathje & Pryor, 2011). Another way of promoting the rights of mentally handicapped patients is through media accountability. As an information channel, the law should discourage television stations from portraying people with mental problems negatively. This would help in eliminating stereotypes derived from television images, which undermine mental sufferers (Smith & Cashwell, 2010). Lastly, laws like the Americans Disability Act have to be enacted to protect patients against stigmatization. Such laws should denounce any form of discrimination against mentally-sick people in the society.
The concept of mental health remains an integral part of our lives. However, human beings are prone to mental diseases and disorders, which affect their normal body function and overall wellbeing (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Besides the mental aspect, these disorders affect social and physical phases of a person’s life. In providing care and support to people with mental problems, nurses play an exceptional role especially when they are serving in psychiatric hospitals.
Their efforts are usually aimed at promoting the mental health of patients to regain normalcy. Nevertheless, these efforts, together with the willingness of patients to seek medication, are commonly thwarted by stigmatization, which undermines the rights of patients by lowering their status. Due to this impact, every effort has to be gathered to combat it and realize positive results in terms of patients’ response to medication and overall attitude towards the condition. Above all, nurses ought to lead the war against stigmatization and promote the mental health of patients.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders-IV-TR (DSM-IV-TR). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Bathje, G. J., & Pryor, J. B. (2011). The Relationships of Public and Self-Stigma to Seeking Mental Health Services. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 33 (2), 161-176.
Bryant, B., Knights, K., & Salerno, E. (2007). Pharmacology for health professionals. Sydney: Mosby Elsevier.
Bury, M. (2005). Health and illness. Cambridge: Polity.
Cloud, J. (2012). What Counts As Crazy? Time, 179 (11), 42-45.
Covarrubias, I., & Han, M. (2011). Mental Health Stigma about Serious Mental Illness among MSW Students: Social Contact and Attitude. Social Work, 56 (4), 317-325.
Edward et al. (2011). Mental Health Nursing: Dimensions of Praxis. South Melbourne: Oxford.
Lester, H., & Duchar, N. (2012). The 10 key features of primary care mental health services. Pulse, 72 (6), 27.
Smith, A. L., & Cashwell, C. S. (2010). Stigma and Mental Illness: Investigating Attitudes of Mental Health and Non-Mental- Health Professionals and Trainees. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education & Development, 49 (2), 189-202.