jumps into mental health debate
a debate underway in mental health nursing about the causes and
proper treatments of mental illness.
And CSUS nursing professor Bonnie Raingruber has found herself at
the center of it.
Many of her peers are trying to shift the focus of their profession
to drug-based treatments, and away from a holistic approach that
includes extensive personal interaction. They’re arguing for
a “nature” instead of “nurture” approach,
with the assumption that mental illness is solely a biological problem.
Raingruber believes they’re wrong. She says mental illness
has social, cultural and environmental roots, as well as biological
She recently defended her position at a national nursing conference
in a debate with Wanda Mohr, a leading researcher who supports the
drug-based approach. Afterwards, Raingruber received a standing
ovation, though the professional debate is far from settled. She’s
been asked to take part in a second debate on the West Coast.
“My argument is that we need an integrated approach in which
one person can provide nurturing and, when needed, prescribe the
drugs,” Raingruber says. “Mental health nursing needs
to challenge the idea of treating people in small bits, and care
for the whole person.”
She says many patients – perhaps half according to some research
– don’t respond to drug treatments.
In fact, Raingruber’s research over the years suggests personal
interactions and intense therapy are often at the heart of successful
Raingruber’s graduate research focused on interactions between
psychiatric nurses and patients. She has since published numerous
articles on the topic in both Perspectives in Psychiatric Care and
the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.
“The better you know the person, the better you are able to
help them,” Raingruber says. “It’s kind of like
a friend who knows you so well they can hear the importance of a
tone and get much more from a simple comment. When you know the
patient, when you provide therapy for a patient, you can get much
more from a simple conversation.”