Family care nurses play a vital role in caring for and treating family members with mental health problems by offering not only their professional assistance but also their emotional support. The family as a unit also contributes significantly towards the health, well-being, healing, and wellness of one of its members by providing them with the necessary compassion, care, love, assistance, and support since illness is considered a family affair (McBride, 2016). Hence, it is necessary to incorporate the family into the care of a mental health patient to help improve their mental health and recovery though there are various barriers that may occur, including family-based barriers, professional practice-based barriers, and healthcare system-based barriers to mental care.
One of the benefits of incorporating the family into the care of mentally ill patients is that it helps improve the health outcomes and quality of life for mental health patients by enabling them to receive the full support of members of the family. The involvement of families in the care of a member with mental health issues helps in their recovery by accelerating the recovery or healing process and helping such patients to cope with symptoms of mental illness, such as violent behavior (McBride, 2016). It also reduces their morbidity and mortality. An example from my practice was this family of four which had a son who was grappling with mental health issues. Actively involving the patient's family in his mental health care enabled him to experience significant health improvements.
However, in spite of the benefits, incorporation of families into care may be affected by family-level barriers such as resistance or lack of support from family members, stigma, lack of awareness on the value of family incorporation into mental health treatment and care, and lack of skills and resources to manage mentally ill patients (Ross et al., 2015). Also, according to Ross et al. (2015), system-based factors such as lack of system support, poorly uncoordinated family care services lack of integration and continuity, and limited experience, skills, education, or knowledge in working with families can also impede the process of incorporating families into mental health care. An example from my experience was where a family with a mental health patient declined to have their daughter undergo the recommended treatment, thus making it difficult for the nurse to incorporate the family in the patient's care.
To summarize, whilst there are numerous benefits associated with incorporating the family into the care of mental health patients such as the provision of support, hope, encouragement, and resources, barriers abound. Some of these barriers include stigma that is usually attached to mental illness, the lack of education on mental health care, limited skills and knowledge, resistance from family members, limited family resources, and lack of system support. Therefore, there is a need for offer education to families and care nurses on how to deal with mental health patients, empower families and provide them with facilities or skills to manage mentally ill members, and offer adequate support to family nurses.
McBride, J.L. (2016). Family physician support for a family with a mentally ill member.Annals of Family Medicine, 14 (5), 460-462
Ross, L.E., Vigod, S., Wishart, J., Waese, M., Spence, J.D., Oliver, J., Chambers, J.,..., & Shields, R. (2015). Barriers and facilitators to primary care for people with mental health and/or substance use issues: A qualitative study. BMC Family Practice,16, 1-13
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