Title. Mental health nurses’ attitudes towards severe perinatal mental illness.
Aim. This paper reports on a study exploring the experiences and attitudes of generic mental health nurses towards care of women with severe mental illness during the perinatal period.
Background. Severe mental disorder in the perinatal period is a global public health concern. However, there are concerns that mental health nurses other than dedicated perinatal mental health teams may lack knowledge, skills and experience in caring for such disorders, because of their low prevalence.
Methods. Sixteen generic Registered Mental Nurses working in public adult mental health services participated in three focus groups during 2007.
Findings. Participants did not perceive any difference between symptoms during perinatal and non-perinatal periods. There were mixed attitudes towards caring for women with severe mental illness in the perinatal period. Fear and anxiety was expressed by the nurses when caring or feeling responsible for the babies of clients. Lack of communication between professional groups and decreased clinical decision-making following the introduction of the Edinburgh Post Natal Depression Scale caused frustration. Confidence was displayed when working with known and trusted colleagues.
Conclusion. Generic mental health nurses would benefit from more education on perinatal mental health and there may be a need for them to be supported by specialist perinatal mental health practitioners.