Mental health can be affected by various environmental agents.  Several contributors that enhance and bring about mild to acute mental illness include nutritional deficiencies, injuries, alcoholism, illicit drug use, or victimization (National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 2017).  Situational stress, such as natural disasters or seasonal affective disorder, can also be a causative agent of an individual’s mental well-being (Heekin & Polivka, 2015).  Mental health can also be a genetic factor.  In 2016, adults suffering from mental illness reached approximately “44.7 million, where women were the largest population affected at 21.1 percent versus the males at 14.5 percent” of the total amount presented (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017, figure 1).  Due to the nature of women having a hormone imbalance, such as serotonin, where levels can be low and be a contributor to developing depression and anxiety (Young, 2018).  A combination of “lower socioeconomic status or stressors” that are related to “job loss, financial hardships, and changing schools” are a few additions to increasing mental illness among both females and males (Heekin & Polivka, 2015, p. 5).

Environmental health risk

As we all know and have heard that when you lead a stressful life, you can become ill.  There are many outcomes from the environmental exposure to stressors.  There is a decrease in life expectancy by “10-25 years”, which could be a result from the development of chronic diseases, such as “heart disease, infectious disease, hypertension, diabetes, and suicide” (World Health Organization [WHO], n.d., para. 1).  Nearly “one in five adults in the United States lives with a mental illness”, which equates to “44.7 million individuals in 2016”, with individuals between “18-25 years with two or more races” (NIMH, 2017, para. 4).  With a large number of those with mental illness comes with a cost of “$89 million in 2013, and with serious mental illness, $193 million reported in 2008” (Kamal, 2017, figure 27).

Health disparities

While working with acute mental health patients for years in various healthcare environments, the background of those I worked with were from a lower socioeconomic situation, including those that are homeless.  However, mental illness can affect anyone.  For the purposes of this discussion, when you have someone that is suffering from mental illness, they often do not keep up with their appointments or check-ups with the psychiatrist or with the primary.  Not to seem controversial in our discussion, but from my experience, patients that are hard to talk with, such as those with schizophrenia, borderline personality, or bipolar, nurses really have a hard time separating the subjective from the objective data.  When a patient says they are fine and ramble off into a tangent, the nurse will get nervous and either end the physical assessment stating that were non-compliant or they take for granted that since the appearance looks normal that they are of sound mind.  To fix this issue, effective communication would be the key to help the nurse to complete their thorough assessment and not the issues the patient may be having.  More times than not, I have found abscesses and septic patients from my time on the floor which infection can also contribute to behavior issues.


Heekin, K., & Polivka, L. (2015, November). Environmental and economic factors associated with mental illness. The Claude Pepper Center, 1-16. Retrieved from

Kamal, R. (2017). What are the current costs and outcomes related to mental health and substance abuse disorders [Report]. Retrieved from

National Institute of Mental Health. (2017). Mental illness. Retrieved from

Schmidt, C. W. (2007, August). Environmental connections: A deeper look into mental illness. Environmental Health Perspectives, 115, A404-A410. Retrieved from

World Health Organization. (n.d.). Premature death among people with severe mental disorders [Report]. Retrieved from

Young, J. L. (2015). Women and mental illness. Retrieved from

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