Mental health nursing has changed significantly over the years as a result of changes evident in medicine and the need for providing practical services to mental health patients. Previously, the mentally ill patients underwent torture in an attempted cure for their condition. The transformation of mental care became evident in the late 19th century, when human behavior was studied and understood to some extent (Bradshaw, 2012). The psychiatric nurses have done well to adapt to the trend of practice improvement in the field of psychiatry, considering social and cultural factors.
In ancient times the insanity of an individual was associated with the presence of demonic spirits over that person. Treatment was done by traditional healers who used ointments, herbs, and some stones considered precious for the practice. These tools were used in combination to extract the unseen spirits, although some illnesses were perceived incurable. Moreover, some people consider the treatment of mentally ill patients as brutal and inhumane. During the Middle Ages, the mentally ill individuals were cast out to the streets or imprisoned. Religious and charity organizations saw the brutality of the mentally ill individuals as inhumane hence considered assisting them with food. Consequently, the first mental asylum was at St. Mary of Bethlehem, London. The asylum was built in the 14th century to offer refuge to the afflicted and destitute individuals. Moreover, this initial model provided a prerequisite for similar structures across England (Bradshaw, 2012).
The skepticism about the treatment of mental illness continued in the 15th to 17th Centuries. Asylums were increasingly used to confine the mentally ill patients, with the insane people considered animals rather than humans. During the 18th century, increased consideration was offered to the mentally ill patients by society. There was the development of a new concept of asylum from Pinel and Tuke, which were more humane. Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) advocated for better management of mentally ill patients, including the treatment procedure recommended for them. For instance, the attendants had to ensure they administer hot and cold baths, emetics, and purgatives to the mentally ill patients. Pinel (1745-1862) sensitized the need for exercising moral treatment and showing kindness to the mentally ill patients to improve their conditions.
During the 19th century, the United States and other European countries initiated a movement championing reformation of ideas on how mentally ill patients are handled. Moreover, there was a proposal for the creation of a state hospital to cater to the mentally ill patients. In the year 1772, the first mental hospital was built in Williamsburg, Virginia. Whereas, in the year 1817, Mclean Asylum was the first in the provision of humane care to mentally ill patients. The concept of humane treatment is centered on providing a favorable environment for the patients, thus promoting an easier understanding of their illness, hence boosting their physical and mental health. With the increased advocacy on the sensitivity of mentally ill patients, the nurses developed better education of their patients, hence improved their care considerably. Increased advocacy by Dorothea Dix (1802-1887) ensured more state hospitals are built to address mental illness in society.
The first psychiatric nurse in America is Linda Richards, who developed care nursing in hospitals across America. Moreover, she directed a psychiatric nursing school in Mclean asylum. Her advocacy led to the development of increasing nursing schools to produce better nurses. In the 20th century, increased research work was done to identify the causes of mental illness among the affected individuals. The Psychobiological theory was initiated by Adolph Meyer, which advocated more on treatment but not the disease. There is the use of genetic, biological, and environmental stresses to consider the best treatment. Classification of mental illnesses was accomplished by Emil Kraepelin (1856-1926), who considered the conditions of mania and dementia. Sigmund Freud played a significant role in developing psychoanalysis, neurosis, and psychosexual theories. The knowledge enabled the nurses to determine treatment procedures based on the personality development of individual patients. Carl Gustav developed analytic psychology, which integrates reasoning, mysticism, and spiritual concepts used by nursed during the care of mentally ill patients. Also, during this era, experienced social and cultural change deinstitutionalizing state to community hospitals. These models of leadership in government facilities provided more centralized care for mentally ill patients.
In the year the 1990s, there was increased research into the functioning of the human brain. Therefore, the mental illness nurses were more sensitized about the biological and chemical functioning of the brain, hence governing their choice of care for particular patients (Blythe & White, 2012). Additional publications were made, providing the nurses with signs and symptoms of various mental illnesses. The nurses are then able to prescribe a particular diagnosis to a patient based on their needs. That publication is referred to as The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The creation of the National Center for Mental Health provides special training for the mental illness nurses who are able to offer a great range of quality care for the patients based on their medical needs.
Blythe, J., & White, J. (2012). Role of the mental health nurse towards physical health care in serious mental illness: An integrative review of 10 years of UK Literature. International Journal Of Mental Health Nursing, 21(3), 193-201. doi: 10.1111/j.1447-0349.2011.00792.x
Bradshaw, T. (2012). Evolving role of mental health nurses in the physical health care of people with serious mental health illness. Retrieved 19 October 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22533334
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