Mental Health Nursing: Why It’s Important

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I hope everyone had a great weekend! Mine consisted of working one thirteen hour and one fourteen hour shift! I had taken time off while I was in psych (I’m float pool/PRN at my job) so it was nice to see my work friends and get back into the groove of the nurse life! I now have five full days off that require no classes, work, studying, homework, clinical, or clinical paperwork! To be honest, I’m not even sure what to do! I’m sure I will manage though. 😉

Today I’m talking about mental health nursing, and discussing how important I feel this class is for all nurses to take, no matter what specialty you choose! I noticed some students have the mentality of “I am NOT going in to psych, so this class does not pertain to me.” This could not be farther from the truth! Mental health issues will show up no matter what floor you work on. People with mental illnesses get sick. And when they get sick, their medical problems are addressed before they can go to a psych unit. If we want to be able to provide the best and most competent care to this patient population, we need to have a basic understanding for the disease process of their mental illness. This can lead us as practitioners to be understand why they are acting they way they are and to be able to anticipate unique needs the patient may have.

Mental health also plays a huge role in ways other than the mental illness aspect. As nurses, we will be with people when they are at their most vulnerable moments. We will be there when people receive terminal illness diagnosis, through the death of a loved one, birth of a baby, life changing health conditions, and so much more. When things like this happen to people, they can go through a range of emotions. They need a person on their side who is going to support and comfort them. Mental health nursing will teach you how to handle these situations! You will learn the appropriate way to handle people when they are angry, aggressive, depressed, or anxious.You will also learn that sometimes it’s okay to not have the right thing to say. Sometimes, silence and your presence is all people need. And it’s not just the patients we are there for, it’s the family. We can provide much needed support for them and help to explain what is going on with their family member in a way they can understand.

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Another important part of this class is learning about suicide and what we can do to help prevent it. According to the CDC, in 2013 there were 41,149 suicides in America, equal to one suicide every THIRTEEN minutes. This is a sad and scary statistic. This is something we as nurses need to be talking about and educating people about. People don’t just commit suicide at home or on the psych unit. It can happen on any unit in the hospital. And while it’s not necessarily discussed or making the news, it is happening in hospitals. Nurses need to be aware of what is going on with their patients and be assessing for any thoughts of suicides. If you think your patient could be having these thoughts, ask them. Out right. It’s a common myth that people think asking will “put the idea in their head.” This is not true. The only way to find out if someone is having these thought and to help them is to ask. There are also signs you can look for. Are they giving away prized possessions? Were they very depressed, but now happy? Are they saying things like “my family would be better off without me?” Be in tuned to what your patient is thinking and feeling. Let them know you are there to talk, and you are there to help with more than their physical symptoms.


My mental health nursing class was such a great help to me in my nursing practice, even just in the two days I have been back to work so far! I was blessed to have had an amazing psych nursing instructor in my LPN program who gave me an great foundation for psych nursing in the RN program as well as working as an LPN for the past three years, so I felt extremely prepared for my class. Coming fresh from a psych nursing review though, I returned to work and I felt like I saw things in a whole new light. I really saw how many opportunities there were to utilize therapeutic communication on a typical shift. A lot of it you are already using with your patients! I was just more aware of it this weekend. I also felt more intentional at times with what to say and ask, and how to guide the conversation so the patient could really say what they were feeling. We are here to be advocates for our patients. To not only give them physical support, but emotional. That is the beauty in nursing. That is what I truly LOVE about nursing! To care for the whole person is a wonderful experience.

Any thoughts on mental health importance? Anything to add?


5 thoughts on “Mental Health Nursing: Why It’s Important”


Mental health is so important. What you’ve learned is awesome, and it makes me happy to see that you’re already using it! Just like you said, a lot of people underestimate the importance of caring for mental health. I love seeing how passionate you are about nursing, it’s amazing!


    Thank you so much! Nursing is a huge passion of mine, it’s great to now have an outlet for that passion! 🙂


Great read. Lots of truth. Do you think you are going to become a psych nurse when you graduate? You seem to be very passionate about it. Have you ever considered it?


    I am extremely passionate about mental health and feel it is something that really needs to be worked on and addressed. I have considered psych nursing, I am trying to be open minded to all specialities while I am in school!

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