Mental health nursing is a field in which the primary role of nurse practitioners is to take care of patients with poor mental health. Mental health nursing is commonly referred to as psychiatric mental health nursing. A licensed nurse who focuses on helping individuals suffering from mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, postpartum depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or psychosis is known as a mental health nurse (MHN).
Discovering what specific patients, their families, and entire communities need in terms of their mental health is the primary responsibility of an MHN. Developing a treatment plan and evaluating how well the patient responds to therapy could be necessary. Prescription drugs, holistic treatments, or other effective therapies may be used throughout therapy.
Mental health nurses are commonly employed in hospitals, clinics, private practices, jails, community centers, and private corporations. In addition to providing direct care to their patients, MHNs often strive to develop new policies and promote legislative reform. When discussing how these professionals work, knowing how to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner is important. To become a skilled and competent psychiatric nurse practitioner, an individual must have some kind of higher education, such as a Master’s or a PhD. Marymount University offer a number of courses in nursing and they’re available to be completed online.
History of mental health nursing
Mental health nursing primarily focuses on treating patients suffering from mental trauma. A lot has changed in mental health nursing throughout the years. The seventh century marked the beginning of the history of mental health nursing. By the 13th century, Europe’s mental hospitals housed the mentally sick, but psychiatric nurses did not supervise them. Below is a detailed timeline of some of the most important events as the field of mental health nursing developed.
Mental health nursing in the 1700s
Many years ago in the United States, witchcraft and demonic possession were used as justifications for psychiatric conditions, leading to hangings and burning at the stake. Throughout the 1700s, those who suffered from mental diseases were seen as dangerous and imprisoned or caged. These individuals were declared to be insane and under the influence of the devil. Most of the time, family members either hid, or hired assistance for, their mentally challenged loved ones. Some individuals were evicted from neighborhoods, and some mentally ill people were forced into slavery.
In Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Hospital, the first ‘lunatic ward’ opened its doors in 1752. Similar medical services, including access to clean rooms and fresh air, were provided to patients with mental problems. During this time, patients were given shocks to the head or submerged in ice baths until they passed out. The purpose of purifying the unwell was to drive sickness from the ill. Bleeding was another infamous medical treatment technique; the patient’s ‘toxic’ blood was extracted, which usually causes death.
Mental health nursing in the 1800s
Florence Nightingale, an advocate for self-care but not a psychiatric-mental health nurse, was the first to recognize the need to approach the patient holistically in the mid-1800s. Dorothea Dix contributed significantly to changing how the mentally ill are treated too. She first visited jails in 1841 and was horrified by the appalling circumstances in which convicts were housed. She was also frightened to witness people with mental illnesses coexisting with criminals.
Dix visited many states to gather information about how inmates were being treated and then returned with a report to the state’s government to ask for changes to their living circumstances. Dix’s initiatives led to the construction of several mental facilities. Dix also emphasized therapy for those judged curable and a decent environment for the terminally ill. Training women to assist in providing care for individuals with mental illnesses, however, was still met with hostility.
Many Civil War veterans suffered from emotional stress after the war. These troops received treatment at mental health facilities. Shock therapy treatments continued to be utilized at this time as no new therapies had yet been found. More hospitals were required to care for these individuals with chronic illnesses. Sadly, the quality of the care and treatment started to decline, and the excessive number of patients made the level of treatment appalling. Eventually, mental hospitals spread throughout the nation. More than 20 institutions were available to treat the mentally sick by the mid19th century.
In the United States, McLean Hospital was established in Massachusetts in 1811 as a lunatic institution, but mental nursing was not recognized until Boston College was founded in 1878. It was the first independent institution to officially educate and train nurses in mental care in the US.. The first psychiatric nursing school was later established in McLean in 1880. Before 1913, mental nursing was primarily taught in nursing programs housed in psychiatric institutions and was not a mandatory subject by nursing standards. Psychiatric education gradually migrated across the nursing course until it became necessary for all nursing schools.
Mental health nursing in the 1900s
With the release of the Handbook for Attendants of the Insane in 1885, mental nursing care received official recognition. The critical components of providing excellent patient care were empathy and kindness. Before becoming recognized as nurses, due to their education and experience, caretakers in the 1900s were referred to as ‘attendants of the mentally ill’.
The Mental Treatment Act in the 1930s gave patients the freedom to voluntarily check themselves into mental hospitals with the expectation that, after receiving the necessary care, they would be in good enough health to be released. The patient would receive care from a doctor and other members of the psychiatric team in order to dispel any stigma related to mental hospitals.
Linda Richards, America’s first licensed nurse, is frequently regarded as the country’s first well-known mental health nurse. Richards launched nurse training programs for psychological health at many institutions in 1899. Several nurses were already employed in mental health facilities, but Richards believed their education differed from that of nurses in conventional hospitals. She began spreading awareness of the need for mental nursing among doctors and nurses.
President Harry Truman ratified the National Mental Health Act on July 3, 1946. This legislation followed the shocking discovery that people with mental disorders occupied up to 50% of hospital beds and after years of the US government failing to address psychological health. The National Mental Health Act’s objectives included:
- Supporting mental disease research.
- Assisting states in the establishment of institutions and treatment facilities.
- Raising the level of training for psychiatric health practitioners.
With the enactment of the Community Mental Health Act in 1963, President John F. Kennedy started the ‘deinstitutionalization’ of psychiatric health treatment. This law was created to subsidize community-based psychiatric health facilities. As a result, there were fewer limits on where MHNs may work. Unfortunately, as patients were discharged from hospitals and placed in community settings, the quality of treatment, which was already fairly vague at the time, started to deteriorate.
The American Nurses Association first created care standards that all mental health nursing specialists should follow in the 1970s. These guidelines served as the basis for those that are in use today. All patients under the treatment of psychiatric nurses are given safe and efficient care according to these requirements. To provide nurses with specific training in the guidelines and procedures of care within mental health nursing, the American Nurses Association formally developed a certification program in 1973.
Advancements in mental health education
Mental health nursing has evolved due to two primary reasons: an increase in the global prevalence of mental health concerns, and the advancement of education in mental health and nursing. Historically, doctors and nurses were rarely educated about the importance of mental health, and whatever knowledge they had was flawed because it was based primarily on assumptions and beliefs. Only after the efforts of Florence Nightingale, Dorothea Dix, Linda Richards, and Hildegard Peplau was mental health recognized as a problem that needed to be addressed.
Our current knowledge about mental health is based on scientific evidence, such as clinical trials and thorough research on different aspects of mental health. As a result, we have a better understanding of the importance of mental health, what causes various mental health problems to occur, and evidence-based treatments for each of these problems.
Advancements in mental health treatments
There is ample proof of the historically harsh treatment of those with mental illnesses. Treatment for mental health conditions has improved dramatically in recent years. Previously, treatments to help mentally disabled patients involved the following,
Claudius Galen, an ancient Greek physician, thought that the imbalance of substances in the body caused most diseases. In the 1600s, English physician Thomas Willis modified this method of treating mental illnesses, as he maintained that an inherent biochemical link caused mental illnesses. It was believed that bleeding, purging, and even vomiting may assist in remedying these imbalances and treat both physical and mental illnesses. Furthermore, a physician by the name of Jacques Ferrand published a book in the 17th century in France describing treatments for mental illness. Bloodletting was one of these remedies. Bloodletting was used to treat patients with psychiatric illnesses at mental institutes from the 18th century. One well-known instance is St. Mary of Bethlehem in London, which earned the title ‘Bedlam’ for its horrendous patient care and the circumstances in which it was maintained.
Lobotomy is one of the few mental therapies that has won a Nobel Prize; however, it is no longer commonly practiced. The first mental procedure was a lobotomy, which aimed to relieve pain by severing any symptom-causing brain pathways. However, soon it became clear to experts that the procedure’s shortcomings outweighed its benefits.
The use of lobotomies was a glaring example of the need for extensive testing of mental disease therapies before widespread adoption. Nonetheless, they inspired researchers in the mental health field to investigate the links between neuronal signals and mental disease. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) are effective treatments for the right individuals. DBS is used to treat severe OCD, while ECT is used to treat extreme psychosis and extreme or treatment-resistant depression, but only as a very last resort.
Isolating patients in asylums
Individuals with psychiatric illnesses were historically housed in asylums, ostensibly for therapy but frequently to shield them from the eyes of their communities and families. The overpopulation in these facilities raised questions about the standard of care provided to institutionalized people and raised awareness of the rights of those who suffer from psychiatric diseases.
Historically, mental health was not studied based on scientific knowledge. Instead, it was based on society’s or philosophers’ understandings of various psychological concepts. Although their teachings and findings form the basis of modern-day psychology and psychiatry, today, mental illnesses and human behavior are studied solely based on scientific evidence. As a result, qualified professionals in the field have introduced effective therapies instead of the previously employed approach with ignorant treatment. Some of the most common therapies used to help patients today include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT),psychoanalysis, interpersonal therapy, and many more.
Role of mental health nurses in improving patient care
Today, building trustworthy relationships with patients who seek mental health treatment and their relatives or caretakers is the responsibility of an MHN. This can entail guiding patients through the administration of their medications or providing information on treatment techniques or social activities. The following responsibilities may be expected of a qualified MHN every day:
- Speaking with patients about their mental health concerns as part of the assessment process.
- Treating patients and ensuring that medications are taken as directed.
- Looking into the origin of the patients’ illnesses.
- Conducting private therapy sessions.
- Compiling and managing patient records effectively.
- Using strong leadership qualities.
- Conducting patient risk assessments.
- Tracking patient progress with family members.
- Ensuring all legal requirements are met.
In summary, mental health nursing is a rewarding career that has evolved over the years. The future is looking up for mental health patients due to the work that is going into training nurses and the resources used.