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Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2011;32(3):170-6. doi: 10.3109/01612840.2010.531518.

Sexuality and consumers of mental health services: the impact of gender and boundary issues.

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Central Queensland University Australia, Institute of Health and Social Sciences Research, Rockhampton, Australia.


The importance of sexuality to humanity is clearly acknowledged. However, for consumers of mental health services, it tends to be a neglected topic. Although nurses are at the forefront of mental health service delivery, evidence suggests they are reluctant to include sexuality as part of their care. This article describes the findings from a qualitative exploratory research project that examined mental health nurses' attitudes to discussing sexuality with consumers. Fourteen mental health nurses from a service in Queensland participated in this study. Data analysis revealed two main themes: the impact of gender, and professional boundary issues. In terms of gender, participants referred to the impact of sexual dysfunction experienced by young adult male consumers. For female consumers the discussion centred on vulnerability to sexual exploitation and the need to exercise protective measures to ensure safety. Participants indicated concerns about being professionally compromised when discussing sexuality with consumers of the opposite sex. These findings highlight the need for further exploration of mental health nurses' attitudes towards discussing sexuality with consumers as part of their practice.

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