In Independent Nurse Sept 2013, we learnt that after a year-long enquiry, the Mental Health Foundation concluded that mental health services should be moved into primary care.
About the same time as this report, public opinion made Tesco and Asda apologise for selling fancy dress costumes that stigmatised those with mental health issues. The bright orange psycho ward outfits with the word Committed printed on the back were publicised with the phrase "Dress up as the most thrilling psycho killer character of all time".
The sale of such costumes sums up perfectly the obstacles that moving services into primary care faces - wider society's stereotypes of mental illness are deeply embedded. The fact that supermarkets thought these costumes were acceptable at any level illustrates the scale of the problem. It is little wonder the mental health charity MIND reports nine out of ten people using mental health services' in-patient care reported stigma and discrimination from a range of sources.
As a psychiatrically trained nurse, I know from talking to patients that one of the worst aspects of a mental illness diagnosis is isolation and loneliness. It is likened to a life sentence. They feel stigmatised and afraid to talk about their mental health because they are fearful of being judged.
Practice nurses see patients with mental health problems every day, and yet often have no formal education in mental health. Patients may have a multitude of traits which make us shy away from engaging, and it is easy to feel ill equipped resulting in poor consultations with those who have mental health issues.
The report recommends that primary care staff will be specifically trained to deal with mental health. As a starting point, I hope practice nurses will be involved in and able to access this education so that they can benefit alongside their patients.