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Keywords:

  • medical co-morbidity;
  • role of the mental health nurse;
  • schizophrenia

The management of risk is a fundamental component of the work of mental health nurses and is most commonly associated with aggressive, violent and suicidal behaviours exhibited by those suffering from mental illness. However, people with severe mental illness are increasingly at risk of experiencing a number of related and complex health problems that include obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This group also has much higher rates of morbidity and mortality than that of the general population resulting in high social, economic and individual costs. Some of the barriers to receiving prompt and appropriate physical health care include lack of recognition by health professionals and the difficulties faced by consumers of mental health services in negotiating the health care system. Establishment of comprehensive (addressing both physical and mental health issues) programmes of care can address this need and offer additional opportunities for closer and more collaborative nurse–patient relationships. This paper explores risk factors for medical co-morbidity for people living with schizophrenia and suggests strategies that can facilitate better health outcomes.