Last time I checked, something like 80% of general practitioners treat mental illness. Mental health care, access, Insurance to go to the nicer place in the state (sometime's there are 3 in my state), post-psych ward follow-up in the US, and community outreach for the 1 out of 4 (at least) that will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their life-time, and the pyscho-social help for family and friends. Not to mention the public health, outreach, and education for our communities, counties, states, and country. It's easier to go to prison for years, than get long-term care like they had at places like Dorthea Dix in NC that was shut down.
Some of us are getting the message through! In NC, you can hand your variety of drugs over and tell him that you need shelter, food, or just help getting off drugs. Most likely an opiate now-a-days. My last office manager actually sat me down and discussed how to increase my monthly patients. Monthly- pain pills, diet pills, anxiolytics.... People get hooked, bc the brain is lazy. It would rather make you feel pain that should no longer be there, than actually release dopamine the old way it used to do. This, itself, is a mental illness bc it changes your brain chemistry and pathways in the brain.
The rest are in prison, or self medicating on the street. They'd rather sleep outside than risk strangers and scabies in a shelter.
Try to commit someone- but, do it on a Friday if possible so they stay more than 1-2 days after downing a bottle of Xanax.
There are not enough psych professionals. It can be hard. Behaviors that are directed by a sick brain start looking oppositional, defiant, and devious. You start to get pissed when they act out or try to guilt you.
It's hard. It's rewarding for so many afflicted, there friends, and families. They will quit meds despite having a medical background, very knowledgeable, and very intelligent. Mental illness could give a F@k about your fancy education or lack of, or how smart or gifted you are (higher suicide rate with higher education and IQ, generally).
We need you in psych. Prepare though. Study in depth about personality disorders, mental illness, and addiction. Don't listen to your new coworkers about the patients. It's a high burnout area. Look at treatment holistically. Know that you may be the first person to treat them like they are human and not dangerous a weirdo. Remind them and ask them about their strengths, not just the crappiness of disease. This may sound strange, but, ask what about their condition is a strength, helps them see the world like no other, and makes them a good type of interesting- many with hallucinations will mourn the sounds and visuals that were special to them. Not all hallucinations are dangerous, but most people don't hallucinate and therefore understand why some of them would feel like a huge loss, like losing a hand or foot.
Know your meds and side-effects, good mouth checking, and know all the hiding places. You don't have to get an education in psych to make a bigger difference. Read and study new literature/ studies. Set an example for your coworkers and back it up with research and known outcomes.
I'm a little passionate about mental health care! Do it! If you want to be a psych nurse, find a mentor if you can. All of this will help you as you get your advanced degree, even when you find out that some things you learned in the unit are wrong and have to be changed!
I wish you the best and pray more people follow this path helping pts and family, decreasing crime, educating and breaking through the stigma. That is better, but not good enough. You will be treating the most difficult diseases plaguing your pts. Treating the pt's brain, the most important and least understood organ. You are a super-hero!