Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

Respecting personal space and reserving time to talk

In the busy world of modern health care, and particularly in hospital, nurses may feel under pressure to ‘get results’, and they may also be extremely busy. It is easy to forget that the busy pace of the modern health professional may not be the pace of a person experiencing a mental health problem, particularly depression. A feature of depression is that people often feel the need to be alone with their sadness and to reflect on their thoughts. They may, therefore, spend a lot of time alone in their room or some other quiet place; if at home they may rarely go out, or answer the door or telephone. The nurse needs to strike a careful balance here. It would be wrong to drag the depressed person out into public situations, since this would deny their rights and does not respect their feelings. However, it would be equally wrong to ignore the person sitting alone and isolated. Instead the nurse should let the depressed person know where they can find them and when off duty who they can talk with instead.

The nurse might go to the depressed person at regular intervals to let them know they are still around and try to engage them in conversation or perhaps to simply sit with them awhile in silence. If the depressed person is living at home, a brief visit or a telephone call by the nurse may be appreciated. At the same time reinforce the idea that recovery involves re-engagement of the depressed person with society and that, although their right to time to themselves will be respected, it is also part of the nurse’s role to help them re-engage. All these actions by the nurse will let the depressed person know that someone cares for them and that they are not alone. These two simple facts alone may provide the person with a foundation for recovery.

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