Is There a Future in Mental Health Promotion and Consultation for Nurses?

By Woodhouse, Annette | Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession, February 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Is There a Future in Mental Health Promotion and Consultation for Nurses?


Woodhouse, Annette, Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession


INTRODUCTION: UNMET NEED

Currently there is a high level of unmet need in the Australian population of young people with mental health issues (Sawyer & Patton, 2000, pp. 13-14; Sawyer et al., 2001; Senate Community Affairs: Commonwealth of Australia, 2008; State Government of Victoria, 2008; Zubrick, Silburn, Burton, & Blair, 2000).Young people are the most vulnerable age group for developing a mental illness with over 75% of these illnesses occurring before the age of 25 years. Targeting this age group for mental health prevention is therefore vital (State Government of Victoria, 2008).

In addition to a high prevalence, at 14% for young people's mental health issues in populations, only one in four of those affected receive professional help (Sawyer et al., 2001; State Government of Victoria, 2008; Zubrick et al., 2000). Child, adolescent and family mental health services (CAMHS) will never meet the gap between prevalence and treatment of mental illnesses, which are described as 'vast' (Zubrick et al., 2000, p. 572). What is required are alternatives mental health services for these young people such as increasing the collaboration between mental health services, schools, family doctors and paediatricans, making these settings important sites for mental health promotion and prevention (Sawyer et al., 2001).There is also a need to move from focusing on treatment-only approaches to an investment in mental health promotion and prevention particularly for anxiety, depression and conduct disorders given the evidence supporting the potential for prevention of these disorders (World Health Organisation [WHO], 2004a; Zubrick et al., 2000).

MENTAL HEALTH PROMOTION AND PREVENTION

There is an increasing focus on the importance of mental health promotion from an international perspective(Canadian Institute for HealthInformation, 2008; Pollett, 2007; US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2007; WHO, 2004b; Zechmeister, Kilian, & McDaid, 2008) to national (Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, 2000; Mental Health Council of Australia [COAG], 2008; Parham, 2007; Walker & Rowling, 2007) and statewide levels (State Government of Victoria, 2008; Victorian Health Promotion Foundation VicHealth, 2005, 2006) in Australia.

Mental well-being is defined as 'a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity' (WHO, 2004b, p. 12).

Pollett (2007, p. 1) describes the link between mental health and mental health promotion:

Mental health is an essential component of health and is a resource to help us deal with the stresses and challenges of everyday life. Good mental health contributes to the quality of our lives as individuals, communities, and as a society in general...while individuals and communities have the capacity for good mental health, they require support in order to achieve and maintain it. The process of enhancing protective factors that contribute to good mental health is called mental health promotion.

Mental health is seen as important business for everyone because of the need for collaboration across the wide range of services and settings that mental health impacts on (Parham, 2008; Pollett, 2007; WHO, 2004b). Mental health promotion and prevention approaches enhance the capacities of individuals and communities to understand and respond to mental health issues, while promoting the mental health of whole populations (Pollett, 2007). Mental health influences all spheres of peoples' lives including community and social factors (Raphael, 2000b; SAMHSA, 2007) illustrated in an alternative definition of mental health promotion as asking for 'peace, social justice, decent housing, education and employment' (Herrman, 2001, p. 712).

There are different opinions about whether mental health promotion and mental illness prevention approaches should be combined (Pollett, 2007). …

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