Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

Can you examine a mentally ill person?

The assessment of mental health need not be done by a specialist. It requires nothing more than compassion, good listening skills and some basic knowledge, as described in this manual. Some health workers have mixed feelings about assessing a mentally ill person. They may experience:

• fear that the person may attack them;

• disgust with the person’s lack of personal hygiene;

• frustration that the interview may take longer than a regular examination;

• amusement at the odd behaviour shown;

• anger that the person is wasting their time with ‘no real illness’.

Such feelings will usually make it harder for you to provide help for mental illness. These attitudes will also make the person less comfortable and less likely to share feelings with you. A person with a mental illness should be treated with the same respect and compassion as anyone else. Working with the mentally ill is a challenge that will be both fulfilling and rewarding. The most important aspect of assessing mental illness is to give the person enough time.

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