This essay aims to identify the challenges faced by general nurses caring for patients with a mental health problem. The focus of this essay will be on Schizophrenia.

Authors Avatar

This essay aims to identify the challenges faced by general nurses caring for patients with a mental health problem. The focus of this essay will be on Schizophrenia. Each challenge that is revealed will also be followed by an appropriate strategy or way in which to overcome it. The common encountered difficulties such as stigma and communication will be the main topic of this essay. According to Lawrence et al (2001) these challenges are a concern for general nurses as it has been estimated that between 30% - 60% of general hospital patients have psychiatric co morbidity. In addition people who have schizophrenia are more likely to have physical problems and since mainstreaming, are now more likely to access general hospital to meet their health needs (Lawrence et al 2001).

Firstly what is schizophrenia? Schizophrenia is a serious, chronic mental disorder characterized by loss of contact with reality and disturbances of thought, mood, and perception (Weller 2005). Schizophrenia is the most common and the most potentially sever and disabling of the psychosis, a term encompassing several severe mental disorders that result in the loss of contact with reality along with major personality derangements (Weller 2005). Schizophrenia patients experience delusions, hallucinations and often lose thought process. Schizophrenia affects an estimated one percent of the population in every country of the world (Rowden 2006). Victims share a range of symptoms that can be devastating to themselves as well as to families and friends. They may have trouble dealing with the most minor everyday stresses and insignificant changes in their surroundings. They may avoid social contact, ignore personal hygiene and behave oddly (Janosik, Davies 1996). Many people outside the mental health profession believe that schizophrenia refers to a “split personality”. The word “schizophrenia” comes from two Greek words, schizo, meaning split and phrenia, which means mind (Angermeyer, Matschinger 2004).

For people with Schizophrenia, stigma is the largest single obstacle to improving their quality of life (Flynn 2006). Stigma marks an individual out as being different and evokes some form of sanction (Weller 2005). Philips (2006) believes that stigmatising beliefs may result in discrimination against people with the disorder. In the general ward the person with the psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia is at risk of getting too little attention or too much of the wrong kind.

Too little results from labelling and dismissing the patient because of the disorder. Labels such as social admission, schizo or nutter carry the risk that the one so stigmatised will not be seen as a proper patient let alone a person and will be abandoned in a corner while there is a long, exasperated and sometimes inept search for ‘disposal’ (Henderson 2004). According to Brinn (2000) general nurses avoid these patients and concentrate their efforts on others who will more than likely reassure them that they are competent as they carry out procedures designed to meet physical needs.

Join now!

Too much attention takes the form of over sedation, over observation, isolation in a side room and even physical restraints. The attitudes, which give rise to the above, are deeply rooted in society (Nordt et al 2006). The concept of schizophrenia is often associated with fear of the potential threat of patients with such illness. People’s misconception about schizophrenia is engendered by the false equivalence of schizophrenia with split personality (Angermeyer, Matschinger 2004). Thornicroft (2006, pp. 27) reaffirms the above by stating, “popular knowledge about mental illness is a potent cocktail of profound ignorance and pernicious misinformation”.


This is a preview of the whole essay