Researching: Illness and Mental Health


Health problems and complications may be stressful for older patients and cause emotional distress, depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. According to Haugan et al. (2013), depression is one of the most frequent mental disorders in elderly people. The following paper will explain how mental health can be considered in ill patients and focused on a particular population. Moreover, the material will provide caregivers of older patients with educational materials helping to prevent and manage psychological manifestations of an illness. Finally, the presentation will discuss the recommendations for non-medical supplemental treatments that might be used to treat mental health issues in a medical facility.

Ways to consider population-focused mental health need

Mental health needs to be a part of treatment for hospitalized and recovering patients. Healthcare facilities often lack standardized procedures for assessing the symptoms and treating patients with psychological manifestations of an illness. The processes of identification, screening, and treatment of mental health concerns are vital for people experiencing primary health problems because without proper action, depression might remain unrecognized, misdiagnosed, inadequately treated, or untreated. The introduction of a psychiatrist might improve the recognition and treatment of a psychological problem by 78% (Spilman et al., 2013). Questionnaires might also be employed to evaluate the mental health needs of most people, while clinical interviews with short breaks are more appropriate for elderly patients who tend to experience fatigue.

Psychological problems due to illness should be distinguished from preexisting mental health issues in the elderly, so when the patient cannot self-report a concern, the family might contribute the information on his/her mental condition. Older people, especially those living in long-term care facilities, are particularly vulnerable to feelings of hopelessness and loneliness, which increase the risk of depression. Psychological/illness-specific support groups, cognitive behavioral therapy, and regular interactions with caregivers, nurses, and counselors can facilitate recovery and improve the symptoms of depression and adherence to medication or treatment (Keddington et al., 2020). The concepts of dignity, independence, and self-worth should be considered by caregivers and healthcare providers, who can advocate for temporarily or terminally ill elderly individuals.

Teaching Plan: Prevention/Management of Psychological Issues

Prevention and management of psychological manifestations associated with an illness or injury require early detection of signs and cooperative action of nurses, caregivers, and patients.

Discuss the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and emotional stress with patients and caregivers, emphasizing the importance of their early detection. The symptoms might include insomnia, poor appetite, fear, self-harm, and non-compliance with treatment.

If there are no symptoms, recommend preventive measures, such as support groups, meditation, or vitamin D supplementation (Alavi et al., 2019). If the symptoms are detected, advise the patient/caregiver to invite a mental health professional to evaluate and confirm psychological issues.

In collaboration with a mental health specialist and a general practitioner (GP), select appropriate psychological treatment options. Cognitive behavior therapy, encouraging positive patterns of thinking and acting, is one of the most effective methods for improving mental state, mood, and coping strategies in elderly patients (Morgan et al., 2019).

Work with the interdisciplinary team (nurses, psychologists/psychiatrists, GPs) to discover pharmacologic interventions suitable for the patient with certain physical/mental conditions. Anti-anxiety drugs might be used for short-term treatment of severe anxiety and cause dependence, while various types of antidepressants act on different brain chemicals to alter emotions or motivation. Antidepressants for moderate-to-severe depression involve a trial-and-error process, which might take time before the best option is found.

Non-Medical Interventions and Treatment Options

In addition to the previously described interventions, there are several non-medical options to supplement the treatment of mental issues in ill patients. For instance, the research by Haugan et al. (2013) indicates that self-worth therapy can significantly reduce the symptoms of depression in by restoring the dignity and mental well-being of elderly patients. Additionally, interpersonal relationships between the patient and the nurse/family/caregiver can prevent emotional distress and anxiety when they are based on compassion, acceptance, and respect. Morgan et al., (2019) demonstrate that art therapy sessions can help to cope with stress and anxiety by encouraging individuals to use art supplies to express emotions and shift the focus from depression to creativity.

Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese technique of inserting needles into the body, might stimulate specific nerves and regulate serotonin and norepinephrine production to reduce depression. The method has few side effects but may cause bleeding or bruising in elderly patients. Another supplemental method is animal-assisted therapy which involves the interaction of patients with domestic or farm animals controlled by a mental health specialist. Morgan et al. (2019) claim that the option has been tested in several studies and proved to be effective for the depression treatment of elderly people in hospitals and nursing homes. Finally, several studies reveal that relaxation training can help patients with depression and illness, as it supplements the benefits of standardized treatment from a general practitioner.


Overall, prevention and management of psychological manifestations of illness cannot be effective without the efforts of patients, caregivers, and interprofessional teams. Preventive measures by the patient/caregiver include support groups, meditation, or vitamin D supplementation. Identification of the symptoms (insomnia, poor appetite, fear, self-harm, or non-compliance with treatment) requires the involvement of the patient or caregiver. Mental health specialists are responsible for screening and confirmation of psychological issues. Based on the patient’s condition, the interdisciplinary team provides phycological and pharmacologic treatment options, including cognitive behavior therapy, anti-anxiety drugs, and antidepressants. A variety of non-medical supplemental measures (interpersonal communication, art/self-worth/animal-assisted therapy, acupuncture) might be incorporated into the treatment strategy.


Haugan, G., Innstrand, S. T., & Moksnes, U. K. (2013). The effect of nurse-patient interaction on anxiety and depression in cognitively intact nursing home patients. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 22(15–16), 2192–2205.

Keddington, K. S., Jones, A. E., Feehan, M., & Witt, D. M. (2020). Development of a brief screening instrument for emotional distress associated with thromboembolism. Thrombosis Update, 1. Web.

Morgan, A., Reavley, N., Jorm, A., Bassilos, B., Hopwood, M., Allen, N., & Purcell, R. (2019). A guide to what works for depression (3rd ed.). Beyond Blue.

Spilman, S. K., Smith, H. L., Schirmer, L. L., & Tonui, P. M. (2015). Evaluation and treatment of depression in adult trauma patients. Journal of Trauma Nursing, 22(1), 17–22. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. "Researching: Illness and Mental Health." September 18, 2023.