On World Health Day, the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) is calling for increased support to provide additional training to all nurses in identifying people at risk of depression or suffering from a depressive disorder.
“Our profession has highly-trained Mental Health Nurses, but with the prevalence of depression and chronic disease in Australia, all nurses are likely to be caring for people with depression or at risk of depression and have a vital role in early intervention,” Australian College of Nursing CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward said.
According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
In any one year, around one million Australians have depression. Research shows that physical illness is one of the strongest risk factors for depression.
“Nurses provide care in schools, aged care homes, primary health, community, and hospitals – all locations where people will present with a physical illness,” Adjunct Professor Ward said. “Nurses are likely to be the health care professionals spending the most time with patients with chronic illness. This means they have a central role in recognising people at risk of, or suffering from, depression.”
Prompt diagnosis and early intervention in the initial stages of a mental illness can have significant and life-changing consequences for a person’s mental health.
“Early diagnosis and treatment of depression can also have a positive impact on a person’s physical health,” Adjunct Professor Ward explained. “Evidence shows that depression is a risk factor for physical illness and for early death. So depression can be caused by having a chronic disease, but it can also precipitate chronic disease.
“The Australian College of Nursing would like to see nurses receive more ongoing and intensive training in recognising the symptoms of depression. Nurses can help ensure depression is no longer underdiagnosed and undertreated.”
The Australian College of Nursing currently offers a range of mental health training courses.