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Care + Career

Resources, news and fun for NHA certification candidates and alumni.

Mental Health Series

Expert sources report our country is experiencing a mental illness epidemic. As an allied health professional, what can you do to positively impact the mental health crisis?  In this series, you will take a close-up look at depression, bipolar disorder and suicide prevention. Being educated about the cause and management of mental illnesses will help you to serve as an advocate for prevention services, early identification, integrated services, and ongoing care.

Elderly patient looking at a nurse in hospital ward 


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THIS SERIES INCLUDES THREE ARTICLES 

 

About the Series

Bipolar Disorder:  A spectrum of ups and downs: 

In this article, bipolar disorder will be discussed.  Symptoms, potential causes, approaches to diagnosis, and management of the illness will be explored.  Early diagnosis and treatment helps to reduce the likelihood of substance use disorders, decline in relationships, loss of employment, and risk of suicide.  With a clear understanding of the illness, allied health professionals will be able to effectively partner with other members of the health care team in promoting wellness, and assessing, treating and supporting clients with bipolar disorder.

Major Depressive Disorder:  It’s More than just the Blues: 

Depression is a catch-all word for several different types of depressive disorders including major depressive disorder (MDD), dysthymia, bipolar depression and seasonal affective disorder.  Major Depressive Disorder, its cause, symptoms and management is the focus of this article. 

Suicide Prevention:  Saving Lives Through Awareness and Education

Suicide – it’s a sensitive topic people do not like to talk about.  However, talking openly about suicide is one of the best strategies to prevent it. This offering will cover the terminology, risk factors, assessment techniques, and prevention methods surrounding suicide. 


About the Author

Deb Johnson-Schuh, RN, MSN, CNE

My interest in psychiatric nursing was sparked in nursing school. Although I didn’t start my nursing career working in psychiatry, I quickly realized I didn’t have to work in a specialized mental health care setting to provide care for clients with mental illnesses.  Clients with mental illness can be found in any health care setting including an in-patient medical/surgical unit, emergency department or even obstetrics. 

Later in my nursing career, I worked as a correctional nurse, a setting where mental health crises were common.  I also worked as a behavior health nurse providing care for clients with schizophrenia. 

In my current role as a nurse educator, I provide didactic teaching regarding prevention and management of mental illnesses to nursing students. I also serve as a board member for my local public health department where, through ongoing collaborative efforts, mental health promotion initiatives are planned and implemented.  

What do you hope certification holders will gain from your articles?

I hope readers see the importance of promoting early identification and intervention of mental illness.  Despite the growing prevalence of mental illnesses in the United States many people are not receiving the help they need. New ways of thinking and comprehensive solutions are needed to meet the needs of the clients.  

What do you like best about working in the mental health industry?

Health care providers are in a unique position to make significant impacts on mental health promotion and mental illness prevention. Saving lives doesn’t only happen in the Emergency Room. 

In general, what are some of the biggest obstacles that patients with mental illness face in today's society?

There are several obstacles clients must overcome. One of the biggest obstacles is stigma, both public stigma and self-stigma. Stigma associated with mental illness prevents people from accessing treatment.  Our society has a lot of misconceptions about mental illness. Mental illness isn’t a choice. Mental illness isn’t something people can simply snap out of. An accurate understanding about mental illness is necessary to eliminate stigma and promote advocacy for clients with mental illness. 

Why is depression more prevalent in females than males? 

There are several thoughts as to why the prevalence of suicide is higher in women. One reason is related to the effect of hormones on the chemical messengers in the brain. Another may be related to the thought women experience a higher level of stress and the coping style of women may contribute to depression.   Yet, other sources report that depression may occur equally in men and women. Because women tend to seek medical care more often than men, the statistical data makes it appear depression occurs more in women.

Are there any biological factors that increase the risk of suicide?

A biological factor relates to something physical that contributes to suicide. As discussed in the articles, mental disorders are present in a high percentage of suicides.  Any of the biological factors (i.e. genetics or neurotransmitter imbalances) that contribute to mental illnesses may contribute to suicide.

What is the difference between bipolar disease 1 and 2?

The difference relates to the degree of severity. In Bipolar I, the severity of depression and mania are both high.  In Bipolar II, the severity of depression is high but the client experiences a lower grade of mania, called hypomania. 

What kinds of tips can you provide for health care workers that care for patients with mental health disorders?

  • -Always have an accurate understanding of mental illnesses.  This knowledge will help prevent
     holding harmful misconceptions. 
    -Always see the patient and not the mental illness.
    -Be kind and supportive in all of your interactions.
    -Therapeutic communication is extremely important.  Not only is what you say important; how it is
     stated is also important.
    -Do not be afraid to ask questions, especially when safety is a concern. 
    -Sometimes listening is more important than speaking.

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