For a long time in the past, mental illness has been associated with mystery, fear and in illiterate cultures, with superstition. In one of his novels, Things Fall Apart, literary writer Chinua Achebe recounts the African conception of madness, in which the gods, when annoyed with an individual’s actions, revisit that person with mental disorders as punishment. With the advent of modern medicine, however, diagnostic procedures link mental illness to psychological instabilities of the mind, caused by emotional stress, injury to the brain or genetic disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2009).
Mentally ill people, therefore, fall within the bracket of persons whose mental capacity has been impaired as a result of these causes. In society, they form a marginalized group isolated from the normal spectrum of social interactions, education system, legal processes as well as the domain of human rights. In America, they comprise one fifth of the population, though majority of them are not so chronic as to isolate them from the functions of society. In the assumption that they don’t make any significant contributions to society besides their liability costs, seriously ill persons, accounting for three percent of the population, are not recognized by most governments in their constitutions.
Consequently, a large part of emotional and daily social care extended towards mentally ill patients comes from families and community organizations. Until one becomes a public shame as did Britney Spears and other drug wrecked addicts, nobody is going to whisk them to a rehab center. Mental facilities are established to avoid the inconveniences they are likely as well as assumed to cause to the public. Yet, as the American Psychiatric Association reports, most of them are not violent, and are more often victims of violent actions than perpetrators. Whatever the case may be, negative perception and negligence by society only worsen their situation. Presently, America is yet to decide whether late popster Michael Jackson went to his grave a demented person to whom medical care was not given. If so, then “This Is It” would go down in history as the one case of a retarded mind that made a whole nation euphoric!
Nonetheless, mentally ill persons impact on society socially and economically. The stigmatization that accompanies them can extend to their families. They become social misfits as a result of “detrimental health behaviors, such as a sedentary lifestyle, poor eating and sleeping habits, strained personal and professional relationships, and poor lifestyle choices and coping skills” (Wolters Kluwer Health, 2009). In addition, society incurs financial expenses to take care of such patients, meet medical costs and maintain mental facilities. It affects the education system as the patients cannot learn or engage constructively in academics. Condemned to this fate is one fifth of school age American children (American Psychiatric Association, 2009).
The role of nurses in caring for mentally ill patients goes beyond their professional practice. They come into contact with people suffering from psychoses, personality and psychological disorders. Their help to these people is not limited to medical prescriptions alone. They establish therapeutic relationships with the patients and their families to address emotional withdrawal and related disorders. Personal communication skills are called for to connect with the patients and understand their problems. Additionally, it needs an understanding of the various theoretical approaches to mental illness, to offer a comprehensive medical and social care. But most important, nurses need to show empathy and warmth towards patients, to combat the effects of stigmatization. Thus, besides medical attention, nursing in this field involves a kind of social care that even families themselves could not provide.
In conclusion, mental illness is a common and serious problem in society. The fact that its prevention is beyond current medical knowledge makes it part of the issues that will confront society for a long time. As such, efforts should be made to overcome the barriers that hinder access to Medicare, such as transportation and treatment costs, stigmatization and limited facilities. It becomes convenient if appointments for advanced medical care are scheduled within the same facility.
American Psychiatric Association (2009). Mental illness. Web.
NHS Careers. (2009). Mental Health Nursing. Web.
Wolters Kluwer Health. (2009). Better Resources for Better Care. In Nursing Center.Com. Web.