Recognizing Mental Illnesses


This Webquest is a learning activity that will help you recognize mental illness and to answer this question:

Why is it important for nurses and other health professionals to recognize patient behavior consistent with certain mental disorders?

The Task

Imagine that you are a nurse or other health professional in a busy hospital unit and there are fictitious patients who are admitted for care.

Based on the information and resources provided, you will determine what mental illness the patient probably has, and work in groups (if possible) to plan appropriate interventions.

Notice how behavior issues, anxiety, altered thought processes or mood disorders affect health care and discharge planning.

Using scenarios of patients with behaviors similar to those of mental illnesses, you can become more aware of specific mental illnesses and their symptoms.

After deciding what mental illness they seem to have, you will discuss how to individualize patient care.

Go to the Process page (see the link below) for specific directions for this Webquest.

Your objectives are:

  • To recognize at least 5 signs, symptoms, and behaviors of various mental illnesses
  • Summarize the added complexity of mental illness in planning nursing care
  • Share personal insight into mental illness related to adaptive or maladaptive coping

This Webquest contains graphics and audio files describing the case scenarios. There are worksheets to learn terminology related to mental illness with an optional template for nursing care plans. Links to resources and an answer sheet may also be available from your instructor.

The Process > > > >


Your performance may be evaluated by using the rubric on the evaluation tab. Grades for group work may be pass/no pass. A score of 8 or less, or lack of participation may be “no pass”.

All members of the group should fill out the Mental Illness Checklist Worksheet. Each person should have individual remarks attributed to him on the Discussion Worksheet and participate in all aspects of the project. Any individual that did not participate with the group may receive an individual grade.

Evaluation Form [.pdf]

Conclusion and Discussion

There is a continuum of adaptive behavior and maladaptive behavior that are affected by the ability to cope with stressors, and by the person’s support systems.

Was care planning more complex when the patient had mental illness?

Did recognizing behaviors of mentally ill people alert you to a need for psychosocial interventions in addition to physical care while in the hospital?

Why is it important for nurses and other health professionals to recognize mental disorders in all settings?

Both recognized and unrecognized mental illnesses can be reasons for noncompliance of patients in all health care settings. Many of the behaviors, signs, and symptoms of mental illness overlap, and people often need treatment of more than one disorder. Sometimes the symptoms and behaviors can look like mental illness but are related to hospitalization, medication, or a temporary situation.

Effective patient teaching should include warning signs of mental illness. Include family members or other support systems. Coordinate a community resources, medication, and follow up services for an an appropriate living situation and treatment plan. Including social workers and caregivers can help prevent relapse and re-admissions for many patients – especially those who are chronically mentally ill.

Developed and Published by:
May Knutson, RN, PHN, MSN
President of Health Vista, Inc.
305 N 2nd Street
La Crescent, MN 55947
Phone: (507) 895-2802

Credits & References
Allison Wagner contributed her talented voice for the scenarios.

Textbook used for reference:
Stuart, G. & Sundeen, S. (1995). Principles & practice of psychiatric nursing (5th Ed.). St. Louis: Mosby

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Updated 1-19-21