How Nurses Can Prepare for Mental Health Patients in 2021
By: American Nurses Association
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately one in five adults experiences some type of mental illness each year, which translates to 43.8 million people or 18.5 percent of the population.
Especially as the country has faced additional challenges in 2020, the mental health of patients has continued to take a toll and cases of psychological stress are on the rise. Therefore, it is important for nurses to be able to identify patients who are showing signs of mental health problems, and also know the best ways to handle these situations.
What are some Mental Illnesses Nurses May See?
Nurses are often seeing patients during tough times in their lives – which may exacerbate or trigger underlying issues. Mental illness can be affected by life situations, stresses and obligations, traumatic experiences or genetic predisposition. Nurses may often come in contact with patients who are experiencing:
- Personality Disorders
- Eating Disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Panic Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive disorder
- Personality Disorder
- …and more.
In some of these situations, the patients themselves may not even realize the symptoms. As nurses may be some of the very first people coming into intimate contact with these individuals, it is important that they keep a keen eye out for any red flags that may indicate a patient may be suffering from a mental illness.
Why Nurses Should Dig Deeper to Uncover Reasons Behind Mental Instability
Again, nurses are often dealing with people during very tough, or pain-laden times in their life. Due to this, patients’ behavior may be seen as difficult. It is important that nurses do not judge or take offense, but instead look at the behavior critically, and question the reasons behind these behaviors. These very difficult traits may actually be symptoms.
It is also important to note however, that these symptoms may indicate a wide variety of contributing factors. They may indicate a medical condition, or a mental health condition, or, they may actually be side-effects of a current medication. For example, thyroid disorder, parkinson’s disease, or side-effects from beta blockers may all include symptoms that mimic depression. By questioning a patient critically and without emotion, it may be clear what the true underlying causes of their symptoms are..
How Nurses can Become Advocates for Patients with Mental Illness
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All in all, nurses have a great impact on the health and attitudes of their patients. When nurses utilize curiosity without judgement, they can greatly contribute to the diagnosis. Also, when nurses deliver quality care with compassion, they greatly reduce the stress that may otherwise worsen mental problems and improve the chances that patients will be successful in their treatment. Each time a nurse evaluates a patient, it is important to remember what a valuable resource they are in advocating for both their physical and their mental health.