Globally, it is estimated roughly one billion people suffer from anxiety and a third of these will also suffer depression. The World Economic Forum in 2019 predicted by 2030 the global primary cause of ill health will be depression.
While these figures are staggering, it is not only the mental health problems which need to be addressed, it is also the physical health of people with mental illness. People with severe mental disorders have, on average, a life expectancy of 10-25 years less than the general population. A majority of mortalities are connected to chronic conditions such as respiratory and infectious diseases, heart diseases, diabetes and more. People with severe mental illness tend to smoke more, have less physical exercise, poor diet, impacted on by side effects of medication. Additionally, living with a chronic condition like diabetes, endometriosis, respiratory or neurological conditions can also increase your risk of depression and anxiety.
Sadly, many countries including India, do not have the right care and support for it. As nurses we have a role and responsibility to break down these barriers and support the advancement of mental health care to all people.
Contribution of Nurses for Mental Care
As nurses, we work across all clinical and service care settings, with people from all cultural backgrounds, across the entire life span, and addressing the spectrum of healthcare needs. Nurses account for nearly 50% of the health workforce, with over 20 million nurses globally, a powerful force for change. The number of mental health/psychiatric nurses vastly outweighs that of psychiatrists. It seems abundantly clear that the way to address the mental health needs of our global communities is through nursing.
Mental Health Nurses in India
In India, while there is awareness around mental health the stigma is also equally present. In such cases, we need our nurses to be more aware and capable to address the mental health needs of the people. This is even more so, in cases of patients who suffer from chronic diseases. For instance, when you walk into a hospital, you are likely to see a reproductive nurse for PCOS and an orthopedic nurse for aches and pains. Hence, these nurses need to be able to explain the connection between mental health problems and chronic illnesses.
At the same time, it is critical we continue to build and support the mental health/psychiatric nursing workforce who have the skills, knowledge and experience required to be a part of the solution of the growing mental health needs of people. We need to have a higher number of mental health/psychiatric nurses in India, who can support other healthcare staff to help them and the patients recognize problems, and provide general support and care.
Our country also needs more educational programmes for these workers. It will ensure that the nursing workforce is skilled and confident to recognize minor mental health problems and know when to refer to a doctor. To drive change, we need to address the mental health needs not just in urban India but also in smaller cities and towns with access to medical care.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author. They do not reflect the opinions or views of the organization.
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