How to approach the mental state examination
What to look for and ask when assessing patients’ emotions, thoughts, and behaviour
- By: Marina Soltan, Joseph Girguis
A mental state examination (MSE) gives you a snapshot of a patient’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviour at the time of observation.1 It can help you identify the presence and severity of a variety of mental health conditions and the risk a patient poses to him- or herself, or to others.
Performing an MSE is a skill you will need to be familiar with for psychiatry placements and for psychiatry objective structured clinical examinations at medical school. In this article, we use the structure of an MSE to give pointers on what you should look for and ask patients.
You need to explore how patients perceive the world through their senses.
—Patients’ recognition of their illness.
—Patients’ compliance with treatment.
Observing patients’ appearance and behaviour can give you clues about their mental state.