Role of Nurses in Reducing Stigma Related to Mental Health

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nursing Education

All nurses including the ones who do not work in mental wellness settings or Psychiatric wards come across patients dealing with mental health problems in the course of their professional lives. During the pandemic, mental health issues became increasingly prevalent both in medical staff, the general public, and the patient pool. 
Although mental health patients are harder to cope with, nurses are in a unique position to reduce the stigma linked with mental health disorders. The nursing study in Canada, employee training, and on-the-job experience train the nurses to take suitable steps in the course of working as a nurse. 
Below, we will see the role of nurses in reducing stigma related to mental health. 

Understanding Mental Health Stigma: 

The stigma of mental illness leads to public and self-stigma about mental health problems. The negative outlook of society towards mental health problems might lead to public stigma while the self-stigma focuses on what individuals suffering from a disease think of themselves. 
The mental health professionals refer to the reactions that result from the two viewpoints as prejudices, discrimination, and stereotypes. The biases include a social component that further involves sharing assumed opinions amongst a population. The prejudiced individuals endorse and encourage stereotypes which lead to discriminatory acts. 
The mental health nursing professionals are formally educated to enable the mental health patients to lead a normal and socially acceptable life. After completing a practical nursing program in the discipline of mental health nursing, these nurses practice in different settings to gain the experience needed to make a difference. 
Nurses help in eliminating the stigma so that it does not act as a barrier to access treatment. They do this in the following ways: 

  • Nurses are responsible to educate people on the importance of getting treatment for improving their mental health. They educate people about the fact that just as physical conditions can escalate to serious health problems, mental health issues worsen too when they go untreated. 
  • Nurses help people who struggle with mental health conditions by empowering them so that they do not internalize the stigma, become pessimistic or lose hope for their recovery. 

Complexities of Mental Health Stigma: 

The individuals who are stigmatized because of mental health problems are vulnerable and develop negative opinions about themselves after repeated exposure from external sources. These people can suffer from low confidence, reduced self-esteem, and hopelessness. Hence, nurses who complete their postgraduate nursing courses in this discipline are trained to play an important role in overcoming this stigma along with performing other duties. 
Nurses are trained to understand that patients who frequently experience prejudice can turn their anger towards anyone. As a result, nurses encourage mental health patients to participate actively in their recoveries and advocate strongly towards improved services. 

Ways Nurses Can Incite Change: 

1. Influencing Public Opinion

Nurses hold a trusted role in society and are respected across the world. Their role is important in mental health wellness because they can influence public perception about mental illness. The role of nurses becomes even more prevalent in cultures where the general public and mental health care providers hold strong stigmatized ideas about the mentally ill. 
The nurses make people understand that stubborn perceptions hinder the efforts to assist patients in their recovery towards leading a satisfying and productive life. In many countries, nurses also organize public health campaigns aiming at improving the way in which the public views mental health illnesses. 
Nursing education and jobs in this field have sparked a visible change. There is a change that incites the treatment of mental problems with the same empathy applied to physical health problems. Today, nurses play a major role in bringing about a change in the way even caregivers deal with the mentally ill. They advocate for patients and help them to recover from their condition in all circumstances. 

2. Demystifying Mental Health: 

Nurses assume a key position in discussing mental health freely so that it can be demystified. As frontline healthcare responders, nurses are trained to discuss mental health topics often and with confidence. This means that rather than talking about anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorders in hushed tones, nurses encourage discussions around mental health wellness in healthcare facilities. 
Nursing professionals are actually one of the best resources to make sure that people get comfortable discussing mental health topics so that there is an increased understanding around this topic and medical support is accepted openly. 

3. Eliminating the Word “Abnormal”: 

If the mental health stigma has to be solved then it is important that society skips the term abnormal when it comes to mental problems. In many healthcare facilities, nurses take charge and sensitize people to not refer to those experiencing mental illnesses as “others” or “abnormal” so that an ‘us versus them’ narrative is not created. 

Recommendations for Nurses: 

Other than the things being done by nurses already, the professionals must think of creative ways to become involved in stigma reduction. Some of the recommendations that can help are: 

  1. Nurses can ensure active involvement of health care professionals and the general public in anti-mental health stigma groups. 
  2. Campaigns focused on accurate representation of mental disorders and fair representation of those suffering from mental health disorders can be done. 
  3. Nurses can use their position of trust to help the public understand the role and opportunity for advocacy needed to end stigma. 
  4. Irrespective of the level of nursing practice or area of expertise, all nurses can affect change by sharing knowledge at places such as schools, public and private workplaces, etc. 
  5. Nurses can encourage and facilitate communication between patients, families, and health care providers. 

Since the community respects nurses, it can be said that a focused intervention administered by nurses may stimulate the cause of stigma reduction. Even on an individual level, nurses can advocate for patients by policing the healthcare system for stigmatized attitudes. This involves careful attention to using appropriate language, non-discriminating behaviours, and advocating for patients who do not receive the right treatment. 


Nurses are in a unique position to make a positive impact on the public when it comes to reducing stigma related to mental health. They hold the trust of the public as being the most ethical and honest profession, which elevates their role in dispensing knowledge amongst the masses on the topic of mental health wellness. 


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