When I was at my 3 month psych rotation at a government hospital in 1958, we nursing students and R.N.s weren't allowed to intervene (talk) with patients. It was "Pass the meds, see that their mouth is empty after taking an oral one, and that they swallowed it, and shut up". The doctors had hundreds of patients each, very crude medications to use, and patients all seemed to do the "thorazine shuffle".
Some student nurses rotating through, years before, had taught a "simple" Schitzophrenic patient to sing "Home On the Range", and make beds. It was thought to be a great break through! I gave him a pencil (no pens allowed) and paper, and he wrote the most amazing poetry! However, "functional", he was not!
I noticed on my off duty time, that many people I saw on the bus had the same vacant look patients had, and commented to a professor about that. His response was, "Ah, but they're coping outside, our patients are here inside, for all their lives". 51 years later, I'm realizing that we all, on the outside of mental hospital walls, are merely coping (hopefully the best we can) with what life hands us. That is getting so heavy these days that I'm thinking "barely coping" is more like it.
Those people who brandish firearms and kill others in public places illustrate the extreme need in society for psychiatric treatment; and especially follow-up. I have in mind the VA Tech killer who had been diagnosed at age 8, with a mental "disturbance". I can only guess at how spotty, if any psychiatric treatment, or love and acceptance he's had.
People with mental disease learn at early ages that it simply is not an accepted condition, and hide it. My wish for you who are anticipating your psych clinical experience, is that you'll learn to accept that mental illness is as common, treatable, and scary as physical illness. Please accept your patients' limitations as "normal" for them, and tweek them with your observations and caring attitude whenever you can.
Now things are much better nursing and med-wise. The challenge is still there, as is the need for more emphasis (and $$$) on appropriate care, and many health care professionals shy away and joke about people's mental health needs. Please notify your government representatives about any severe issues of neglect, mistreatment or need patients have, at facilities where you work. Let your voices be heard.
It is heartening to know that President Obama's opinion is that mental and physical health need to have equal treatment allocated. From his mouth to God's ear........