A group is referred as a vulnerable group when it is at a greater risk for poor health status and health care access. Vulnerable populations can be characterized in terms of diseases, age groups and demographics. They include disabilities, homeless, mental illness and migrant health. A mental illness affects how people think, behave and relate with others (Espejo, 2012). There are different types of mental illnesses depending on the degree of severity such as schizophrenia, depression, personality disorder and anxiety. A mental illness can also be referred as a mental impairment, psychiatric disability or mental disorder.
People living with mental illness are considered a vulnerable group in the society. They are usually subjected to discrimination and stigma through high rates of physical and sexual harassment. People with mental illness or disabilities are restricted to access social and essential health care. In addition, people with mental illness find a challenge of attending school and getting employment. Also, people with mental illness are excluded from development programs. Further, the individuals with mental disabilities or illness because of their disease die prematurely compared to the general population.
A mental illness is caused by the complex interactions between the body, mind and environment (Espejo, 2012). Risk factors to mental illness can be categorized into four, such as personal, social, community and cultural factors. First, personal factors may include sadness, stress, heavy alcohol consumption, low self-esteem, smoking, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity. Secondly, social factors are lack of family support, isolation and limited social network. There are life events and situations that contribute to mental illness. For example, death of a spouse, divorce, lack of employment, economic deprivation and violence. Finally, there are community and cultural factors such low socioeconomic status, lack of support services, stigma and discrimination, inadequate mental health and poor housing.
Some mental illnesses run in families. They are associated with inheritance from parents to their children through genes. Other mental disorders have been linked to abnormal balance neurotransmitters in the brain. Therefore, these factors can only be reduced by a strong and supportive community environment.
An anxiety condition differs from the normal stress and anxiety. The condition is long lasting and it may interfere with occupation and relationship. The symptoms of anxiety disorder are psychological, physical and behavioral. Physical symptoms include heart palpitations, chest pain, sweating and shortness of breath. Psychological signs are experienced through decreased concentration and memory, excessive fear and worry.
Mental depression affects an individual’s thinking, emotions, behavior and physical wellbeing. Psychologically, mental depression is depicted through impaired memory and concentration. An individual suffers chronic fatigue, constipation, weight loss or gain and irregular menstrual cycle. Behavioral signs are neglect of responsibilities, drug abuse and loss of motivation.
According to the national statistics, the rate of mental illness was high (29.9%) among adults aged 18 to 25 compared to those 50 and above. In the recent past, more women (23%) than men (16%) experienced mental illness. In the adults, mental illness is a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder. In addition, a national survey carried out showed that eleven million people suffered from serious mental illness. Also, community statistics showed that African Americans are less likely to suffer from major depression than non-Hispanic whites. The suicide rate among African American was 233% compared to a 120% increase among non-Hispanic whites. Further, 25% of African American youth were exposed to violence than 14% of non-Hispanic white.
Mental illnesses are affecting many people every year. They are among the top ten leading causes of death and disability in the World (McNally, 2011). Regardless of the severity of the mental disorders, many cases are untreated. State and federal governments have passed policies to intervene and improve mental health outcomes. First, a number of states and the federal governments have intervened to increase access to mental health service through mandated mental health benefits. They include mental health parity laws that reduce the cost of mental health services. Secondly, there are effective policies to reduce suicidal behaviors. For example, strict drunk driving laws to reduce suicide among teenage females. There is a strong relationship between youth, drug abuse, crime and mental health problem. The state and federal governments passed policies for expansion of health services to target the youths. Finally, a policy on the length of maternity leave and maternal mental health. The policy focused to increase the length of maternal leave.
According to healthy people 2020 objectives, the following actions should be taken. Mental health services to be incorporated in the primary level care. Also, employment and income generating opportunities to be created for people with mental disorders. In addition, social services and housing development must take into account mental health issues.
Nurses are mental health care providers. They provide direct care to the individual, family or community both at basic and advanced levels. The psychiatric mental health nurses act as counselors. They help people to develop strategies that support self-care to take responsibility in decisions about their health. Community psychiatric nurses are educators. They provide education on mental health issues. Also, community psychiatric nurses advocate for justice and needs of the vulnerable population.
Espejo, R. (2012). Mental illness. Detroit: Greenhaven Press.
McNally, R. J. (2011). What is mental illness? Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.) The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America. Retrieved March 28, 2014, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtm