Mental health nurses need more training on how to deliver sexual health education to people with serious mental health problems, say UK nurse researchers
They surveyed 283 mental health professionals working in an NHS mental health trust in London, half of whom were nurses.
The reserachers found that although 80% of those surveyed agreed that promoting sexual health was an important part of their role, only 30% routinely discussed sexual health with mental health patients.
The survey also revealed that 92% of respondents were unaware that people with schizophrenia were more likely to have HIV than the general population, and 72% did not believe they were more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behaviour.
‘Lack of awareness of the increased HIV risks faced by service users with schizophrenia is of particular concern, as studies have shown that they have higher HIV infection rates than the general population. These range from 5% in Europe to up to 19% in North America,’ said lead researcher Elizabeth Hughes, research associate at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London.
The survey also revealed that 14% of those studied felt uncomfortable discussing sexual health issues with mental health patients, and 13% were uncomfortable discussing gay and lesbian issues.
‘We are concerned by our findings because it means that people with serious mental illnesses are not routinely receiving sexual health information and intervention,’ said Ms Hughes.
‘We are calling for improved training on the sexual health risks faced by people with serious mental illness and better links between mental health and sexual health services,’ she added.
Journal of Clinical Nursing (2009) 18: 591-600
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