Mental health refers to the person’s cognitive and emotional wellbeing, i.e. how they think, feel and behave. Approximately one in four people in the United Kingdom will have a mental health problem during their lives (NHS Digital, 2009). Poor mental health can affect day to day functioning, relationships, physical health, and the ability to enjoy life.
All nurses have a responsibility to promote good mental health in order to prevent problems and to support patients who may have a mental illness. Mental health nurses work in a variety of settings and support and treat people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness.
Just like in physical health, nurses can promote mental health by building good relationships with patients, encouraging healthy behaviours, and recognising and treating symptoms early. Again, as in physical health, there are many mental illnesses which need specialised treatment, these include:
- psychosis (such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder)
- eating disorder
- personality disorder
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- perinatal mental health.
Some of these illnesses are life-long and the person needs education, treatment and guidance to manage the condition. Each individual will be affected differently, therefore their care needs to be tailored to meet their needs.
People with mental health problems do not always get the help they need. Often symptoms are not recognised and services have suffered from a lack of funding. Though improving, there is still stigma about having a mental illness. The Royal College of Nursing is continually working in a variety of ways to tackle these issues.