Feb. 21, 2012
Did you know that 36 per cent of women will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime?
Although mental illnesses can be treated effectively, many individuals delay seeking assistance. Stigma or discrimination attached to mental illness presents a serious barrier, not only to diagnosis and treatment but also to acceptance in the community.
That’s what motivates Elaine Barrons, Siraj Waglay and Patricia Woods, registered nurses (RNs) of psychiatry at Women’s College Hospital (WCH), to specialize in women’s mental health. They aim to reduce barriers to access facing women by providing culturally sensitive and supportive care.
“We help women realize what they’re feeling is normal given their situations. Understanding this can reduce stress significantly,” says Woods. “Our patients leave the program having discovered more self-compassion. They may still feel disconnected from their community (which may, for example, include abusive family members) but they have discovered a connection with others who understand what they have experienced and as a result feel less ‘crazy’ and alone.”
For this trio, there is no such thing as a typical day. Some days are spent co-facilitating therapy groups or meeting patients individually. Others are spent reviewing and prioritizing referrals, taking intakes over the phone, tracking statistics and managing the waitlist and database.
But the goal is always the same:
“To reduce the progression of and treat mental illnesses in vulnerable women who are unlikely to access help without additional support,” says Barrons.
This includes women who experience anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, self-harm, self-esteem issues, suicidal thoughts, difficulties with relationships, alienation, dissociation and isolation.
At WCH, RNs like Woods, Barrons and Waglay know that in order to ensure patients respond effectively to treatment, there needs to be trust between the patient and the RN where the patient feels safe – both emotionally and physically.
This means the RN must be sensitive to and have an understanding of the patient’s beliefs and values by listening to them and answering their questions. It means being present every step of the way and ensuring they feel comfortable.
“The nurse-patient therapeutic relationship is the core of nursing practice and I am happy that we continue to place an emphasis on this in our mental health program. It is why I love to work here,” says Waglay.
For more information on the Women’s Mental Health Program at WCH, click here.Jump to top page