De-Stigmatization of Mental Illness and Addiction Requires Increased Content in Undergraduate Nursing Curricula Globally

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Arlene E. Kent-Wilkinson, PhD
College of Nursing, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Leigh Blaney, PhD
Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program, Vancouver Island University (VIU), Nanaimo, BC, Canada
Marlee Groening, MSN
Willow Pavilion, Trout Lake & BC Psychosis Program, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), Vancouver, BC, Canada
Elaine E. Santa Mina, PhD
Faculty of Community Services, Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, Canada
Carmen Rodrigue, MScN
Navan, ON, Canada
Carmen Hust, PhD, MScN
Phase One RPN to BScN Program, Algonquin College, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Problem: In 2017, stigma towards persons with mental health conditions and addiction still occurs around the world, unconfined by demographics or national boundaries. Societal stigma towards persons with mental health conditions and addiction remains an overwhelming barrier to safe, comprehensive mental health assessment and care. Issue of project: Canadian undergraduate nursing curricula contains limited mental health and addiction content in some nursing education programs. Furthermore, nurse educators may perpetuate societal stigma if their programs do not expose students enough to persons and families experiencing mental health conditions and addictions. Brief description/ Background: Mental health conditions and addictions persist as serious health concerns that affect the lives of 20% of Canadians. Attempts by patients to access mental health and addiction services continue to be met with widespread stigma in hospitals, workplaces, and schools, and in both rural and urban communities. Tragically, persons who seek help for mental health conditions report that they often experience some of the most deeply felt stigma from front-line health care personnel. For this reason, health care providers remain one of the target groups of anti-stigma initiatives. Negative beliefs and attitudes exist among health care providers (including nurses) towards persons with mental health challenges and mental illnesses. Nursing students, like all members of society, are not immune to societal perceptions and discrimination towards people with mental health and addiction challenges. Solutions/De-stigmatization through evidence-informed education: Reducing stigma in society requires education, and a change in behaviour and attitudes so that people living with mental illnesses can be assured of acceptance, respect, and equitable treatment. The most effective response to increase knowledge and decrease stigma is to ensure evidence-informed education of future nurses through a significant increase of psychiatric mental health and addictions theory and practice in undergraduate nursing curricula. Relevance: The author(s) will overview the national stigma campaigns and the role and responsibility of nursing and nursing education in the de-stigmatization of mental illness and addiction. The quality and quantity of mental health and addiction education in undergraduate nursing curricula is critical to de-stigmatization, and to the visibility and advancement of the overall mental health of people globally. Application to other settings: Because nursing professionals constitute a strong and influential stakeholder group that can change both mental health care and social attitudes, pre-practice mental health educational programs would benefit nurses, and communities in which they practice.