Hermeneutic and Buddhist Meditations
Edited By David W. Jardine, Christopher Gilham and Graham McCaffrey
Chapter Twelve: The Elision of Suffering in Mental Health Nursing
The Elision OF Suffering IN Mental Health Nursing
No, this is unease. It is a preeminent reality. (Wallis, 2007, p. 36)
On the surface, it seems unexceptionable to suggest that patients on mental health units are likely to be suffering somehow and that there are nursing activities that can help to relieve that suffering. Buddhist thought begins with the First Noble Truth that human existence is marked by suffering, and it unfolds from there in elaborations of this insight and of how best to respond. These two statements about suffering immediately suggest an affinity between nursing and Buddhism, and yet there are differences. Mental health nursing lives within taxonomies of mental disorders in which suffering is only a result of categorized symptoms, whereas Buddhism proposes that suffering is an inevitable consequence of the natural human inclination towards grasping. The space between these two horizons is the hermeneutic invitation to a critical questioning of the assumptions permeating practice on mental health units. In this chapter, I elaborate on these differences and use material from interviews with nurses to suggest that suffering is elided in mental health nursing, and that the Buddhist perspective offers a way of retrieving it for humane practice. ← 89 | 90 →
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