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Sexuality of people living with a mental illness: A collaborative challenge for mental health nurses

Authors

  • Chris Quinn,

    Corresponding author
    1. Gold Coast Mental Health and ATODS Service, and
      Chris Quinn, Gold Coast Mental Health Service and Drug and Alcohol Service, Ashmore Community Mental Health, 10/207 Currumburra Road, Ashmore, Qld 4215, Australia. Email: chrisj_quinn@health.qld.gov.au
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  • Graeme Browne

    1. Gold Coast Mental Health and ATODS Service, and
    2. School of Medicine, University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia
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  • Chris Quinn, RN (EndMH), DAS (Nurs), Cert PN, Grad Dip (MHN).

  • Graeme Browne, RPN, RGN, ADCHN, BSc (Nursing), MPhil, PhD.

Chris Quinn, Gold Coast Mental Health Service and Drug and Alcohol Service, Ashmore Community Mental Health, 10/207 Currumburra Road, Ashmore, Qld 4215, Australia. Email: chrisj_quinn@health.qld.gov.au

ABSTRACT

This article is a review of the literature examining the sexuality of mental health consumers and the role of mental health nurses. A search identified 72 English articles on the topic. The evidence clearly indicates that sexuality is a critical aspect of who we are as individuals, and of how we view ourselves, but discussion of this topic is neglected by mental health nurses. Discussion focuses upon the wide acceptance of sexuality as a legitimate area for nurses to address in their care, and addresses mental health nurses' lack of knowledge about sexuality, conservative attitudes, and anxiety when discussing sexual issues. Consumer sexuality is poorly assessed in mental health, and is infrequently explored by mental health nurses. The result is that issues of sexuality for the consumer continue to affect many areas of their lives, including their relationships and ongoing commitment to treatment. The nurse–consumer relationship provides an opportunity to take sexual history into consideration, promote safe sexual practices, discuss sexual problems, and educate clients about sexual issues. This literature review identifies the need for further discussion of this topic and for research to point the way ahead for this important but neglected area of mental health nursing.

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