SHE WAS a woman in her late 20’s with a big bump in her belly. With her long hair, she hid her face while staring blankly at the floor.

It was my first time in the psychiatric ward as a student nurse. I was afraid that my nursing interventions might not suffice my patient’s needs. I was troubled by the fact that in that ward, I would not deal with the physical illnesses but with psychological disorders which included affective, behavioral, cognitive, and perceptual disturbances.

The patient I was assigned to had major depressive disorder.

The first time I saw her, I introduced myself, hoping to catch her attention. She didn’t move. I looked at her and stayed beside her and hoped that our eyes would meet, but it never happened. She preferred to stare at the wall.

I felt hopeless. She was my first patient, but there was nothing I could do but to stay beside her and wait for her to respond.

I felt pity on her and her baby. She was five-months pregnant that time but was very thin because she refused to eat.

For so many times, I asked myself, what happened to her? What brought about her depression?

Major depressive disorder is a psychiatric disorder that may be caused by unresolved conflicts, traumatic life experiences, or loss. People with this disorder have low levels of norepinephrine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters or “chemical messengers” of the brain are important for focus, emotions, sleep, and mood.

Balance of the chemicals in the brain is significant for its optimal function. Imbalances of the neurotransmitters may cause various mood disorders, depression, and anxiety. This is the reason why people with psychiatric disorders need medical and psychosocial treatments and therapies.

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However, treatments in the hospital are not enough to help them. They need an environment that is conducive for their health.

After some time, I learned that when she got pregnant, her boyfriend left her and even suggested aborting of the baby. This made her depressed.

About two weeks after our first meeting, I saw a remarkable improvement in her mood. I was glad when I saw her eat her meals with her fellow patients in the dining room, clean her table, and answer my questions.

One day, I was surprised to know that she was going home. She might have improved, but she was still not functioning normally. My clinical instructor that time explained to me that in the psychiatric ward, the patient’s family can decide if the patient will leave the hospital. In her case, her family might have experienced financial constraints.

At some point, I was glad that she was going home because I thought that her family would provide her the love, understanding, and care that she needed.

However, when her mother came, I saw her trembling in fear. She cried and held herself tight. Her mother started to say things I could not understand but I also felt afraid for her because the tone of her mother’s voice indicated anger. Her family, which was supposed to support her, might be her stressor.

In our country, there is still a stigma that people with psychiatric disorders should be feared. They are often mortified and rejected even by their own families.

This is contrary to the environment that they need. To cope up, they need a supportive environment that will help them realize their worth as humans.

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In dealing with them, all of us have to be “therapeutic.” Let us not forget that they are ill. We have to talk to them in non-judgmental way and to make them feel that we understand them and we will help them to cope up with their environment.

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