Academic journal article South African Journal of Psychiatry

Nurses in Mental Health

Academic journal article South African Journal of Psychiatry

Nurses in Mental Health

Article excerpt

Africa, with only 0.32 nurses in mental health settings per 100 000 population, has among the lowest proportion of mental health nurses globally, and well below the world average of 2.23 nurses per 100 000 population. And these are divided almost equally between mental hospitals and psychiatric units in general hospitals, with none recorded in community mental health settings.

These are among the findings of the World Health Organization's first Atlas of Nurses in Mental Health 2007, which found that, in general, there are fewer mental health nurses per capita in low-income countries and that the level of training in low- and middle-income countries is lower than in high-income countries. Moreover, there are also fewer community mental health facilities in low- and middle-income countries. However, nurses have more authority to initiate and renew medication prescriptions in countries in Africa as well as in southeast Asia and the Western Pacific--in Africa more than 40% of nurses are allowed to prescribe psychotropic medicines - compared with 14% globally--and 57% are allowed to continue psychotropic medicine prescription.

Data gathered during the compilation of the Atlas suggest that the overall nursing shortage is a factor in explaining the insufficient numbers of nurses in mental health, with this shortage even more acute because of the lack of incentives for nurses to be trained to provide mental health services. There are also few financial incentives for nurses either to receive mental health training or to provide mental health services, while the stigma of mental illness also clearly contributes to the problem by limiting the number of nurses willing to make mental health nursing a career. …

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