When we hear the word mental health, the first thing that we envision is a person with depression or anxiety. Mental health plays a crucial role in the health and well-being of an individual. Not only is mental health critical to an individual’s health, but it is essential for societies and communities. The common perception about a person with mental well-being is that it entails an absence of mental health. In reality, mental health is more than a mere absence of mental health disorders. By standard definition, it refers to a state of well-being of an individual to recognize their abilities. It also entails an individual’s ability to cope with everyday stresses and productively contribute to society.
Around 450 million people worldwide suffer from mental or behavioural problems, and one million people commit suicide every year. Mental health issues are common. Depression, drug and alcohol abuse, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorders are among the ten most leading causes of disability globally. Dealing with mental health disorders requires treatment and round-the-clock care. Despite the existence of mental health treatment, many people do not have access to medicines. Other than doctors, nurses are the primary healthcare providers. In many countries, nurses comprise a significant part of care providers’ mental and special care patients.
Can nurses be a resource in preventing mental health?
Although mental health problems are one of the reasons for disability worldwide, we barely considered it. People suffering from mental health issues face psychosomatic symptoms interfering with their health in the long run. Training nurses and equipping them with psychiatric education can help in preventing mental health issues. Let’s find out how nurses can play their role in preventing mental illness.
1. Primary health care
Nurses need to have a terminal degree in nursing to facilitate and support patients suffering from any illness. Mental illness can stem from any trigger. For instance, if a person has faced a deadly accident, their mind can go into a severe state of shock. If left unattended, the shock and trauma caused by the accident may turn into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Nurses with psychiatric education can be the best primary healthcare providers in such situations. Well-trained nurses with the skills to identify the signs and symptoms of mental health can help them come to primary healthcare or ER to overcome a shock or trauma.
Nurses have the liberty of direct interaction with patients more than a doctor. They can listen to the complaints of patients and counsel them. In case of any severity, nurses can ask the doctor for a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist.
2. Contribution to mental health policies
Mental health policies aim to define a vision to improve mental health while reducing the mental illness burden in the general population. Mental health policies also entail establishing a model for action based on mutually agreed values and principles. Nurses comprise a significant portion of the healthcare industry, and they contribute heavily to patient’s well-being and satisfaction. Based on their daily interaction with patients, nurses can provide a realistic insight regarding the issues and other things related to a patient.
Involving them in the development of mental health policies can help in reshaping these policies as more patient-centered. Policies giving nurses the liberty to take action when necessary without waiting for a doctor can save a patient’s life. If a patient gets a sudden panic attack, a nurse can provide quick assistance to prevent them from passing out.
3. Developing a treatment plan
We often confuse the word recovery with cure. Effective treatments have helped many patients to overcome their mental health. One can recover from mental health issues, but there is always a probability of relapse. Recovering from mental health refers to the act of enabling a person to live a meaningful life while dealing with the stresses and coping with them. Patients seeking therapies and professional help develop a will to strive back towards health and doing better.
Nurses with psychiatric education can help these individuals in chalking out a plan that suits them best. Mental illness can have several triggers, and sometimes a therapy setting can also trigger a negative response in patients. Nurses can coordinate with patients to know what triggers them in their session and how they want them to be. They can then share these details with a doctor to develop an effective treatment plan.
No matter how hard a person tries to overcome their mental illness, there are roadblocks. A person dealing with mental illness may agree to seek professional help. However, the family member might not understand its importance. Nurses have the most effective communication skills to educate patients about their health and interact with their families. Nurses can inform the families about the mental illness and its impact on their loved one’s life. Suppose a nurse has identified some underlying mental distress. In that case, they can effectively communicate with the family to help the individual suffering from mental health issues. Many families may still consider mental illness a taboo. However, nurses can play a substantial role in de-stigmatizing the mental health issues of an individual.
5. Helping with medications and symptoms
The triggers and symptoms of any mental health disorder vary from person to person. Sometimes the triggers can initiate a different manifestation than the usual symptoms. In such a situation, the individuals might not know how to deal with it. People seeking therapies or treatments for mental health issues are aware of the triggers and symptoms they can manifest. Their therapist equips them with tips and methods to control these symptoms. Nurses can also help in educating patients about all the possible signs and their impact on their health.
Besides helping a patient to understand the symptoms, nurses educate them about the medications. Usually, a person going through some mental health issue wants a quick fix but helps them know that medicines will take time to improve treatment.
6. Providing Therapies
No wonder nurses are the best when it comes to communication with patients and their families. They are skilled and trained individuals knowing how to communicate with patients battling different ailments and help their families to look after the sick. Patients with mental health are more prone to triggers that can arise from any situation. Even a loud voice can be disturbing for them. Nurses spending more time with such patients develop a relationship of trust with the patient. The constant interaction between a nurse and patient can help them counsel the patient regarding their mental and emotional health.
7. Screening for signs
We are aware that triggers and symptoms are not the same when it comes to mental health. People with depression and anxiety may not react to the mild stimulus. However, someone with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder may respond severely. When a patient visits a mental health department or clinic, nurses are the first to interact and greet the patient. These nurses record the history and other details about the patients. However, they also look for other signs and symptoms that can help in providing effective treatment.
8. Mapping risk factors, resources, and assets
It won’t be wrong to say that nurses interact with everyone in the community. Anyone visiting a hospital belongs to different components of a community. Based on their interaction with patients suffering from mental health issues, nurses can map and identify the risk factors leading to severe mental illnesses. They can also determine the potential resources and assets playing a crucial role in a patient’s health and well-being.
9. Integrating mental health prevention in daily life
The profession of nursing is indeed rewarding, but nurses also go through stress and emotional breakdown. Dealing with patients suffering from different illnesses can take a toll on healthcare workers. Nurses spend most of their day working and interacting with patients. They can play a substantial role in integrating mental health prevention in their workplace. Offering a listening ear to patients and peers alike may reduce the chances of emotional buildup leading to stress.
Hospital management can play a fundamental role in helping nurses in preventing mental illnesses. Nurses trained in mental health can offer their services to other hospital’s mental healthcare staff or choose to volunteer in community services. Doing so will help them identify the risk factor and lend a helping hand to those in need of medical assistance.
Nurses are the primary care providers all around the world. They are also playing a crucial role in providing care to mentally ill patients. The World Health Organization suggests that mental health education shall be a part of a nursing degree. The inclusion of mental health education can help many individuals get help in their early stages if timely diagnosed. Nurses can help many people recover as they interact with the patients, talk them through, and educate families. Involving mental health nurses in the development of policies can also reduce the adversity of situations. Nurses interact more with patients and can guide the on-ground factors they encounter while dealing with various patients.