Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mental Health Day

Yesterday my wife and I attended a conference on psychiatric nursing. There were excellent presentations on dementia, borderline personality, depression in geriatric patients, and pre-natal and post-partum depression. We heard a grief counselor talk about helping patients process grief in sudden death events and other complicated grief experiences. It was the first time in several years that I had attended such a conference. When I began my nursing career, I had spent 12 years in community mental health before going into psychiatric nursing. After 2½ years in psychiatric nursing, I moved into cardiac nursing where I have been for the past 12 years (I tell people that since I can do cardiac as well as psychiatric nursing, that makes me a heart-and-soul nurse).

It was good to get back into the arena of mental health and to hear about current practices in the field. I was reminded of a segment that I heard on NPR just a few days ago about the increased mental health issues that are occurring in the wake of the BP oil crisis in the Gulf. People whose livelihoods depend upon oil production and fishing in the Gulf Coast States have had their lives disrupted. Incidents of depression and suicide are on the increase. These people’s lives have been altered in a dramatic way, but there are others who are also experiencing added stressors throughout the country due to the depressed economy and job losses. Increased stress leads to more difficulties in coping, which leads to increased signs of depression and other mental illness as well as an increase in violence.

There were two important things that I took away from that conference on mental health:

1) It is important for us to be aware of mental health issues and to know where to turn. Here are three good websites to know about in matters of mental health:
Mental Health America at . This is the largest and oldest organization to help people experiencing mental illness. It was established in 1909 by Clifford Beer, a Wall Street financier and Yale graduate. He had a Bipolar episode following his brother’s death in the early 1900’s. He later wrote a book detailing his experiences in a mental hospital, including being kept in a straight jacket for 21 consecutive days during one episode of his three year hospitalization. He started the National Mental Health Association, now known as Mental Health America, in order for people with mental illness to have a voice in the public square.

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) at NAMI is an advocacy group “dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.”

The National Institute of Mental Health at “The mission of NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure.” This is a comprehensive website that has information on the latest research, treatment and laws relating to mental health. There is also educational information on a variety of mental health topics.

2) One of the presenters recommended a book by Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear. This is a book for and about violence against women. According to the review, “The book teaches how to identify the warning signals of a potential attacker and recommends strategies for dealing with the problem before it becomes life threatening... People don't just ‘snap’ and become violent, says de Becker, whose clients include federal government agencies, celebrities, police departments, and shelters for battered women. ‘There is a process as observable, and often as predictable, as water coming to a boil.’ Learning to predict violence is the cornerstone to preventing it.”

There is too much violence against women in our society. Since I have a daughter who is single and in college, I’m going to get her this book.


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