Interacting With People Diagnosed With Mental Health Conditions


Around about one in five Australians will experience a mental illness, and most of us will experience a mental health issue at some time in our lives. I was appointed in a ward which contained ten bed unit in a mental health clinic. The unit I was allocated in consisted of both intended (voluntary) and unintended (involuntary) clients. It was my very first experience in mental care. It was my first day and I was told to work with a registered nurse name Sam. On the same day during my orientation I was approached by a client named David. I introduced myself to David and explained that I was actually a student working on the unit for 2 days. He acknowledged me and started talking with Sam, he was mainly directed to Sam during the conversation. David was an involuntary client who had been admitted with paranoid schizophrenia. I was new and I was really conscious of maintaining a professional behavior and standard in front of clients and staff. I was not sure whether he was currently experiencing hallucinations or nots so I thought I should be careful about it. I was observing how Sam was interacting with that client using his language and body language and I became very conscious about my body language. I was afraid and at the same time I held my stance and posture. During all the conversation it became very clear that David was experiencing paranoid delusions. David stated that he had experienced a very distressful upbringing with a very large amount of physical and sexual abuse. He said that he felt like he wanted to kill everyone coming his way and he wanted to kill himself too. I was really threatened to what I was hearing but I was trying to copy Sam’s body language and tried to pretend to be nonthreatening to David. I was getting really upset being a part of this conversation, I was really conscious of not allowing my feelings and emotions to show. It was really difficult to overcome the fear of interacting with people diagnosed with mental health conditions.


Talking about the emotions and feelings, I had mix emotions about this placement in mental ward. I was feeling really excited that I would learn a lot about mental health care but at the same time I was threatened thinking that all the clients will be dangerous and violent. I was also confident that I will engage and interact with the patients and will benefit them. I took it as a challenge and became aware that I have to overcome this fear.

When I was having a conversation with David along with Sam I couldn’t believe that I would feel the way I did. The way David was speaking was really terrifying and threatening for me. I felt my hands were shaking and they were all sweaty. I was waiting for the moment to end this conversation and go into staff where I felt safe. I was thinking again and again that David can be an immediate danger for me as he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

I was very well aware of this fact that I did not handle the situation as fine as I should. It was very upsetting that I felt so judgmental towards David. I was very afraid and I decided to share and discuss my fear with Sam who told me the fact that at some point every staff member feel the same way. I had realized that I got various weaknesses and strengths and started working with preconceived negative attitudes, which restricted me in having a positive clinical placement. I believed that I needed to change my attitude for this client and for others too as not all the people diagnosed with mental illness are violent and dangerous. My problem was that I was taking David as a mental illness not as a person living with mental problem and judged him accordingly. People who are diagnosed as mentally ill are also human and should be treated like human.


What I have learned from this situation is that these clients are human and they should be treated with respect and we should never make them feel different from other human. Mental health condition is same like other health conditions in which patient needs care, respect, empathy and understanding. I have learnt not to judge a client by their mental illness. It strengthened to me that I need to focus on David as a person and not think on the negative self-limiting beliefs I thought for these clients because they are living with a mental health disorder.

People may have negative views and attitudes towards mental illness. The reasons behind this are multifactorial. Media plays a very important role in how people view mental illness, they typically make them look the most negative and dangerous people. The movies and news portray the people living with mental illness as crazy psychopaths, violent, dangerous, aggressive, unsocial and irrational people who need to be avoided. I believe this perception is very wrong and more deep seated now as compared to past because of the increase in the number of people diagnosed with mental health condition. Contrariwise, there many stories showing that how a certain tragic situation has been overcome by an ordinary person and got on with their lives. Such kind of stories may cause a belief in the minds of mentally ill people that they are not good enough, they cannot fight with the things happening in their lives.


One of the important factor contributing to the ongoing of stigma is that the society lack the knowledge of mental illness and what effects and impacts it has on a person’s life. People may experience a level of some mixed emotions and certain amount of anxiety when they meet and face people who are suffering from mental health condition. I hope it is clear that the impact of stigma, shame and discrimination has a very deep effect on the person who has been diagnosed with mental health disease. The discrimination may also cause a delay in the treatment because the person may feel shame and guild been a mental patient, which in result can cause low self-esteem, inferiority complex, loneliness and hopelessness.

Action plan

People who perceive mental illness as a negative and inflexible idea must face their fear and understand that they are also patients like others who are suffering from other diseases. The finest way to achieve this is to establish a very nice and healthy relationship with the people suffering from mental disease, showing empathy and making them feel as same as others are. Empathy can only be demonstrated when you have an understanding of the person’s feelings and ability to be self-aware. It is very critical for the people to possess the ability to care for the person who is not mentally fine, which can be expressed both verbally and non-verbally. Empathy can reduce the feelings of isolation and loneliness.


Though a very small number of mental diseases can lead to a comparatively increased risk of violence, most people with mental disorders are not violent. The association between ferocity and thoughtful mental illness is passionately debated in mental health circles but not in the academic or scientific worlds. There, it is nearly generally acknowledged that – while most people with extreme mental illness are never violent – untreated mental illness is a risk factor for obligating violent acts. There is very slight data that can be used to approximate the percentage of severely mentally ill persons who become violent. The Australian Government and state and territory governments fund professional and mainstream programs and facilities that provide vital social and welfare provision for people with mental disease. These comprise income support, social and community provision, disability services, workforce contribution programs, and housing assistance.

13 January 2020
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