Millions of people all over the world are suffering from one or other form of mental illness. In a highly developed country like the USA, one in every five adult persons experiences mental health problems. Mental health involves social, psychological as well as emotional well being. Our psychologists & psychiatrists share their experience of dealing these issues with society.

It governs our ability to handle stress and relate ourselves to the society. The factors which contribute to the mental illness are
• Hereditary factors • Passing through stressful situation for a long time • Insecurity and uncertainty • Trauma • Biological factors such as imbalances in various neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin etc.

Treatment of mental illness

There are several types of mental disorders such as depression, bipolar, panic attack, phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia etc (source). The treatment involves counselling, therapies and medications. Usually, the treatment of mental illness prolongs for pretty long time. In some severe cases, it may be necessary to provide treatment for the whole life. The modern fourth generation psychiatric medicines work in neurotransmitter level providing great relief to the hapless patients. In almost all the countries of the world social stigma about mental illness poses obstacles in bringing the suffering patients to the ambit of modern treatment. The other hindrances in tackling the problem are lack of facilities and a dearth of qualified psychiatrists and mental health nurses. The World Health Organization has taken up a comprehensive plan of action for 2013-2020. It will focus on attitudinal changes for doing away with social stigma and criminal discriminations which have isolated the patients from society as well as the expansion of facilities for providing quality service to the mental health patients.

Mental health and the nurses

The mental health nurses have big roles to play in this crusade against mental disorders. The role of mental health nurses is distinctly different from the general nurses. The role demands great stamina both in physical as well as mental levels. The mental health nurses have to work in different environments which may include outpatient department and wards of hospitals, homes, in residences and community centres. The patients vary from children to very old.

The various roles of mental health nurses

¬ Dealing with and providing cares to the acute patients. During the acute stage of the illness, the patients can be unpredictable and demanding. The nurses have to be highly compassionate and energetic in order to build a healthy emotional relationship with the patient. The patients may have various emotional as well as physical needs which may seem to be unnatural when compared to a general patient. The nurses have to meet all such needs in order to provide effective care to the patient. At times the nurse has to be diligent and at other time, demanding strict compliance from the patient may serve the purpose. This will only be possible when the patient will start believing the nurse and depend on the nurse for every emotional and physical need. The patient would find the solace from the confidence, enthusiasm and love in the eyes of the caregiving nurse.

¬ Administration of medicine and carrying out other treatment paraphernalia. Regular time bound medication is the core of the treatment and the responsibility for this lies on the nurse in totality. Often the medication may have some side effects. The nurse must be well equipped to deal with such side effects of the medicine. The nurse has also to monitor the result of the treatment and give feedback to the psychiatrist treating the patient. The nurses have trained in different faculties of nursing as well as symptoms of mental disorders. This theoretical knowledge strengthened by the experience in nursing gives them the power to recognize and identify the status of mental disorder of the patients, the improvements or deteriorations etc.

¬ Helping the patients in their endeavour to face specific mental illness symptoms. The nurses are well trained to help the patients deal stressful situations. In various stages of the illness, the patients may require overcoming many challenges. The nurses give them proper guidance at such circumstances. In most cases, the patients may refuse the medicines. Such situations are quite challenging for the nurses. The patient may become angry and behave rudely with the nurse. But the nurse has to be patient and keep calm. The confident and patient dealing of the nurse will surely bring senses to the patient.

¬ Helping the family to deal with the situation. The family members of the patient particularly the caregiver have to pass through stressful situations. The social stigma and various prejudices about the side effects of the medications make the situation very tough for them. Due to the intimate attachment with the patient, every suffering of the patient pains them. It is the duty of the mental health nurse to provide comfort to the family members. This they do by depicting the right picture of the illness, by identifying the improvements, by creating high hopes about the remission, by giving advice how to deal with the long treatment modalities, by telling the importance of keeping themselves healthy physically and mentally.

¬ Improvements in personal hygiene of the patient. Most mentally ill patients neglect personal hygiene. It is very important to bring them back to good personal hygiene habits. The nurses can play a very important role in this. Disciplining personal hygiene habits disciplines the mental faculty of the patients. This, in turn, helps in improving the mental illness. Regular physical exercises, games, swimming etc should be encouraged. This improves alertness of the brain. Physical exercise also improves the status of the neurotransmitters.

In order to successfully accomplish all the above roles, the mental health nurses have to be versatile and perceptive. The nurses have to work around the patients’ lives. This may require arduous and long hours of work as well as travel to reach different locations. The jobs of mental health nurses are really a test of their inherent strength of personality and character. The nurses require lots of walking and should wear good quality shoes. This would provide comfort to their tired feet while giving a solemn look.