Assessing the attitude of nursing staff working at a community health centre towards the mental health care user
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The South African health care system shifted the focus of treating psychiatric disorders from institutional care level mental health services to facilitate this process of integration into the Primary Health Care (PHC) settings. All the provinces were thus engaged in improving mental health care services at community level by providing training for professional nurses in mental health at PHC settings. Consequently, mental health nursing has also changed considerably by shifting the focus of mental health care to the primary care level. It is however, suggested that the current revolving door syndrome experienced at psychiatric institutions was partly due to inadequate community-based psychiatric services. It was also suggested that the attitudes and knowledge of health professionals towards mental illness has a major impact on service delivery, treatment and outcome of mental illness. The aim of this research study was to assess the attitude of nursing staff working at a Community Health Centre (CHC) towards the mental health care user. A CHC was chosen that renders 24 hour services. The inclusive sample included all the different categories of nurses permanently employed at this CHC. The Attitude Scale for Mental Illness questionnaire was used to collect the data. Descriptive statistics: means, median and standard deviations were calculated for the following variables: separatism; stereotyping; restrictiveness; benevolence; pessimistic prediction and stigmatization. In conclusion it can be said that the nursing staff with more experience irrespective of category of nurse has less of a stereotyping attitude towards mental illness. The longer the nurse worked at the setting and irrespective of their nursing qualification the more positive their attitude towards the MHCU became.