Mental health lays the foundation of physical and spiritual health. Most people are held responsible for their mental illness at some point in their lives. Being cornered and called by names is like a daily ritual for them. Society refers to their symptoms as a phase in their lives, which they can control. This blatant discrimination is the power that stigma holds in the community. Stigma causes mentally ill people to be ashamed of themselves. They feel helpless for something that is not under their control. And worst of all, such people are afraid to seek help because they fear judgment.
A group of people who already carry the heavy burden of mental illness over their shoulders, stigma is an unacceptable addition to their condition. So if you are a nurse, it is part of your duty to provide holistic care to the patient. And taking care of mental health is of prime importance. Though not all nurses prepare in psychiatric nursing, but you should help mentally ill people obtain treatment. Nurses, after their graduation, are given a choice to choose their specialty, such as geriatric, pediatric, or family nursing, etc. So if you wish to dig deeper to uncover the reasons for mental illness, you can choose psychiatric nursing as a major. To match your busy schedule, some prestigious universities offer online PMHNP programs for your ease. Online education allows you to continue your routine job with your studies. Moreover, patients with mental health are difficult to manage because of their behavior. However, they should be given equal respect and care, just like other patients. So here we are with some ways that can help you as a nurse combat the stigma of mental illness and psychological disorders:
Educate Yourself and Others
A nurse should seek every opportunity to educate people about mental health illnesses. You can share struggling stories about how much people are dealing with it. So whenever you overhear a conversation or a rude remake on mental illness, you must intervene then and there. That is your learning opportunity, don’t lose it. Express how you feel about it and why we should stop it because it adds to the stigma.
Be Conscious of the Language
As a nurse, you will fight the mental health stigma by reminding people that language matters a lot. There are specific ways to talk about mental illness, alienating people and sensationalizing the issue. So if a person is diagnosed with mental illness, never use words like psycho, nutter, schizo, or deranged. You can say like a person is undergoing treatment for a specific disease. Please don’t use words like a victim or suffering from, or affected with, etc. hence, we all should be careful about addressing this sensitive issue.
When a nurse is compassionate, they are empathetic towards the patient’s pain and suffering, which is essential for the mental well being of the patient. If you are compassionate, the patient will be more comfortable with you. They will share their concerns and will recover fast. You can take out some time and sit with them. Listen to them and talk about their lives. Use a cheerful voice and body language to boost their confidence in them.
Talk Openly About Mental Health
A nurse should be comfortable discussing the patient’s mental health instead of discussing bipolar disorders or depression in a hushed tone and infrequently. It would help if you mentioned it more frequently and with confidence. It is essential to develop that nurse-patient relationship. The more you are comfortable with the patient, the easier it gets for them to seek treatment.
Provide a Safe and Secure Environment
Whenever a new patient comes to you, you should interview them in a safe and conducive environment. It would be helpful if you made them feel secure in sharing their sensitive information. It can be challenging, but a nurse should do everything to protect the patient’s confidentiality. You should make sure that the information provided by the patient is genuine and accurate. Failure to acquire the right information can lead to a delay in diagnosis and treatment.
Consult Knowledgeable Mental Health Professionals
If you do not seek treatment for a physical condition for a long time, it gets worse. Similarly, if not treated at the right time, mental health conditions can escalate to serious health problems. Hence, mental health stigma acts as a significant barrier to seek treatment. There is a lack of knowledge in such patients, and they cannot differentiate between the symptoms. So as a nurse, you can help out such individuals by guiding them and help them consult a knowledgeable mental health professional for their treatment.
Be an Influencer
Nurses hold a trusted position in society, and they can easily influence the public’s perception regarding mental health. There are so many public health campaigns that work to improve the public’s viewpoint on mental illness. In addition to that, the circumstances have changed a lot. Now nursing professionals train and educate the new upcoming nurses about mental health literacy. So as a nurse, you can guide your peers and other people, what challenges they can face and how to take care of their dignity.
A Take-Home Message
Various disorders fall in the category of mental illness and range from mild to severe. Such individuals experience disturbances in their thoughts and behaviors, and they cannot cope with the situation. A nurse is privileged enough to work with the patients directly. They are the best source through which we can implement an effective measure. So as a nurse, you can advocate and influence the development of funding policies for patients, to afford proper health care. You have a significant impact on a patient’s well-being. So be compassionate towards them and deliver high-quality care so that the outcome improves.