How I Would Advocate in my Community

Respond to at least two of your colleagues by providing additional insights or alternative perspectives.

Explain your reasoning using at least TWO different references from current evidence-based literature in APA Format.

Colleagues Response Post # 1

Being a Change Agent for Mental Health

Being in healthcare we are constantly seeing the changes that are happening surrounding mental health. There are often news headlines of lack of funding and resources for clients with mental health problems. As a repercussion we also see the detrimental impact of people trying to function in society without adequate care. According to the National Council for Behavioral Health (2018), 56% of Americans are seeking help for mental health issues, while 76% of people believe that mental health is just as important as physical health. Being a change agent for mental health is identifying what you can change within yourself that would provide an asset to the mental health community. I think the most important thing you can do as a mental health practitioner is to provide your clients with an open-minded nonjudgmental environment to voice their concerns. Social change is the process of adjusting attitudes, values, and actions to address social problems in a positive way (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2014). Being a positive resource for your clients allows for them to trust you and help break the stigma surrounding mental health in America.

How I Would Advocate in my Community

I live in a small rural community in Ohio. I currently work as an emergency room nurse and unfortunately the lack of mental health resources is very apparent. People with mental health issues rely heavily on emergency rooms, are often admitted to the hospital, and are stuck in the emergency room longer than patients with physical symptoms (Luthra, 2016). In the emergency room the clients we see are often looking for different resources including; medication refills, to be connected to a counselor, or inpatient hospitalization. Our hospital recently closed our inpatient psychiatric unit and started referring our patients to a bigger health organization for inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations making it difficult to find placement for all the patients. A frequent complaint I hear from patients is the lack of finding a provider to see them for routine visits and maintenance medication. When I become a mental health nurse practitioner, I would like to be an advocate for patients by making myself available to see patients in an office setting and take emergency room referrals. By doing this I would be helping bridge the gap between emergency care and outpatient management.

       In summary, although we all can see the lack of resources for mental health clients, that doesn’t mean we don’t have the ability to make a change in our communities.  Obtaining an advanced degree will allow me to use the tools that I have to give hope to clients suffering from mental illness.

Colleagues Response Post # 2

Influencing social change

Post an explanation of how you, as a nurse practitioner, might become a social change agent for psychiatric mental health. Include how you might advocate for change within your own community

       With more than 45 million adults in the United States were diagnosed with a mental illness in 2009. This translated to 1 in 5 persons having a mental disorder. Studies also showed that less  half of this number of people with mental illness was able to get treatment. Accessibility to mental health still remains a big problem in the US and so most people go undiagnosed  and / or untreated for the disorders. This is due to the  complexity and fragmentation of the healthcare system, which results to health disparity ( Kuehn, 2011).  As Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioners ( PMHNP),  the burden of making sure that everybody gets access to mental health falls right on our shoulders.

       One of the ways of defining mental health is that it is the state of mental wellbeing that allows one to function fully and be productive in life. Good mental health encompasses several domains, including having mental health literacy, having a good attitude towards mental disorders, having a positive self – perception, positive emotions, knowing the meaning of life, having social skills, being sexually healthy, and being physically healthy, among other domains (Fusar-Poli et al, 2019).  

       As PMHNP, advocating for the individuals with mental illness is our duty, especially due to the fragmented health care system. Most people with mental health needs often find themselves overwhelmed  by the responsibility to make informed choices, since information regarding mental health is not readily available to the general population. The PMHNP can make a big change by ensuring that information regarding mental health in its entirety is available to everybody and that everybody is able to access the care they require.

       Advocacy can be achieved by the PMHNP making sure that they themselves have the required  and up to date knowledge regarding mental health issues, in order for them to adequately pass this information on to the general population.  The PMHNP can  keep themselves up to date with details regarding mental health through attending seminars and conferences for PMHNPs, doing Continuing Education Units 9 CEUs),reading/ writing  journals ( Ozer et al, 201).

       People with mental illnesses suffer a lot of stigma from their families and also from the public. Sometimes stigma may come from those that are charged with the healthcare provision, such as psychiatric nurses, psychologist, psychiatrists and social workers. Most of the stigmatization stems from misunderstandings, myths , judgment and  stereotyping  towards mental health. This stigmatization affects how and if people seek mental health . Mental health is accorded different negative names. Mental health workers can be agents of change by changing their attitude towards the mentally ill, and also by educating the public regarding these attitudes and how they affect those with the disorders ( Tingle, 2002).

       A PMHNP, we can be agents of change through getting involved in the making and changing of health policies. By conducting research and  conducting quality improvement projects, PMHNPs  can change the health policy to a point where it benefits those with mental disorder.  By  writing journeys and articles regarding the information they collect, the PHNP can reach a lot of audience and provide the much needed  mental health education. The PMHNPs can attend local meetings, school -related meetings and parent-teacher meetings, and  disseminate their research findings to school children, teachers ,parents, board members, members of parliament and other healthcare stakeholders (Chilton, 2015).

       As a PH NP, another way to  bring about social change and change in mental healthcare is by writing to my state and federal legislators regarding  a healthcare policy that is already under discussion. Being the person with first-hand information regarding mental health, a PHNP is able to pass on ground information regarding how certain bills have impacted the patients on a day to day basis, and give an input on how these bills can be improved and  how recourses can be allocated ( Jennings et al,2015).

        As A Mental health nurse practitioners I will  influence mental health changes by joining professional Mental health organizations as well as in-hospital committees  that lobby for  patients  as well as for mental health in general. As members of these organizations, PNHNPs would have a collective voice that is likely to convince legislators regarding certain mental health issues that have not been addressed. Professional organizations such as, American Counseling Association, American Mental Health Counselors Association, American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, The American College of Psychiatrists are among the major professional associations that a PHNP can join to have a voice for change ( Waldrop, 2018).

Conclusion

       As a practicing PHNP, I intend to do all the above, get up to date with all the information and technologies in mental health, get involved in my community as an educator, get into in-hospital and  professional organizations in order to get a stronger voice to advocate for mental health, reach out to legislators and provide them information that could transform mental health, and be involved in research on mental health.

        I am already a member of Psychiatric Advanced Practice Nurses of Houston, and I attend their very educative meetings. I intend to continue with this organization and be a major contributor towards mental health. Publishing educative information in magazines and journals will also be another way I propose to keep myself involved in mental health change.
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