Nearly one in five adults in the United States lives with a mental illness, which can range in severity from mild to moderate to severe.1 World-wide, approximately 450 million people suffer with a mental or behavioral problem that impacts their daily living. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), among the ten leading causes of disability are depression, alcohol use disorders, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.2
As important providers of treatment and care, nurses are usually on the front lines of assessing and treating mental illness. Organizations can and should provide nurses and nursing students with the education and support they need to fulfill their role in patients’ mental health.
Why Develop Nursing Resources for Mental Health
- Mentally healthy people are able to cope with the normal stresses of daily life, work productively, and contribute to their community.
- Suicide is a major public health issue in the United States, with rates increasing 35% from 1999 to 2014 – from 10.4 in 100,000 people to 14.2 in 100,000 people.3
- Although effective treatment for mental illness exists, including talk therapy and medications, the majority of mentally unwell people do not have access to these treatments.
- Healthcare professionals regularly interact with patients who have mental health disorders. Knowing a dependable way to assess these patients is paramount in properly treating them.4
- Integrating mental health treatment into primary health care can increase the rate of referral to more specialized care.
- Early introduction to mental health concepts in basic nursing and midwifery education that is expanded upon throughout the curricula will help nurses develop knowledge and skills.
- Continuing education will also reorient mental health care toward community-based treatment and away from custodial care.
- Involving nurses in the development of mental health policies, from the classroom to the clinic, establishes a model based on similar values, principles, and objectives.
- Finally, bringing nursing resources to mental health care and collecting the data about the impact the nursing workforce has on health outcomes will inform mental health policy development.
Mental health is not simply the absence of mental disorder. It is crucial to the well-being of individuals, communities, and societies. For more information about Mental Illness Awareness Week, see the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) site.
1. Mental Illness Statistics from the National Institutes of Mental Health.
3. "Suicide in the United States," Wikipedia.
4. Stiger, Evan. "Simulations in Mental Health," SimTalk Blog, Aug. 8 2017.