Consumers living with psychosis: Perspectives on sexuality [2020]

Mental health clinicians work within a recovery framework that is rights based and emphasizes positive and respectful approaches to working with mental health consumers. Mental health nurses’ practice is also predicated on holism and inclusiveness, yet consumers’ sexuality is sometimes neglected and rights in this area overlooked. Also overlooked is sexuality as an area for investigation, particularly from a consumer perspective, even though it constitutes part of consumers’ broader remit of sexual health. This paper reports findings from a case study where consumers were asked about their ability to negotiate and sustain sexual expression while residing in a long‐stay mental health rehabilitation facility. There were three main findings. First, the physical space of the facility, inclusive of consumers’ bedrooms, was policed by mental health clinicians with ongoing intrusions into consumers’ privacy, which inhibited their sexual expression. The creation of barriers to sexual expression is counter to polices that promote recovery. Second, consumers reported significant medication‐related weight gain which negatively affected their self‐image and sexual sense of self. Third, the consumers spoke about their sexuality in ordinary, everyday language devoid of any hallmark of psychosis. This highlights the importance of relating to consumers about their sexuality and sexual needs from a humane rather than technical framework. Further, it foregrounds the relational aspect of the mental health nurses’ role rather than the technical aspect. Yet sexuality is a topic that is often neglected, indicating that an upskilling of the mental health nursing workforce is required, to strengthen communication and relationship skills.

Alicia M. Evans RN, PhD Chris Quinn RN, GradDip(MHN), PhD Brian McKenna RN, BA, MHSc, PhD Karen Willis PhD
International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 13 October 2020