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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: August 2018

1 - Introduction to mental health and mental illness: Human connectedness and the collaborative consumer narrative



This chapter reflects a coming together of key issues and themes embedded in everyday work with consumers and carers. In recent times, the definition of a carer has expanded to include immediate family and friends, and may also include extended family members such as grandparents and cousins. In transcultural and other contexts, it is important to use humanistic language in line with a recovery approach; for example, the terms ‘support person/people’ and ‘support networks’ may be preferable to the term ‘carer’ in mental health practice and mental health nursing. This approach provides a foundation for human connectedness, and sets the consumer narrative as central to mental health practice and mental health nursing, specifically.


Michael's story

My name is Michael. I'm 24 years old and single. I was recently taken to the emergency department of my local hospital, by ambulance. Apparently, my mother was concerned because she could not rouse me. I've been told that on arrival the level of alcohol detected from my breath was pretty high, and I'd also taken some Valium tablets. Once the alcohol level in my system was reduced, I was referred to the hospital's mental health team for assessment. I spoke to a nurse, Melissa, and explained that, although I am aware of the risk of using alcohol with other drugs, I had no intention of trying to hurt myself.

I used to be a sociable, funny guy at school, with loads of friends. When I was 21, I was assaulted during a night out with friends in the city. Since then, everything seems to have been off – completely changed. I've noticed a change in my personality and behaviour. I often feel irritable and tearful, lacking energy and motivation. I feel down most days, and I've given up on finding work after I lost my job last year. I also have nightmares, so I use alcohol to get to sleep. For the past three years, I have been drinking around eight beers a night and up to 16 beers on weekend nights. To help me get to sleep, I take two to three Valium tablets most nights, and I also occasionally smoke cannabis. I know that this isn't helping but I don't know what else to do.