Mental illness is a significant public health concern. Unfortunately, society holds a negative attitude about mental illness (Casados, 2016). The negative attitude impacts individuals on an interpersonal level, through blaming and name-calling, and on an institutional level, through employment discrimination (Casado, 2016). Shockingly, one study found that 68% of Americans do not want mental illness being married into their family, and 58% of Americans do not want people with mental illness in the workplace (Dingfelder, 2009). Another study reported that over 45% of people thought people with depression were unpredictable, and 20% of people thought people with depression were dangerous (Dingfelder, 2009). The stigma associated with mental illness can make psychological symptoms worse, and hinder treatment and recovery, which can continue to compromise the individual’s mental health (Casados, 2016).
The statistics described above are astounding to me. I agree entirely with one of the statements in the article by Bennett (2015), which states, “mental health is physical health; the two are inseparable” (para. 2). I believe a way to bridge that gap is through a new concept in health care called patient-centered care. Patient-centered care is providing care that focuses on physical comfort and emotional well-being (NEJM Catalyst, 2017). It is providing care that is collaborative, coordinated, and accessible at the right time and in the right place (NEJM Catalyst, 2017). Patient-centered care allows the patient and their family to be a part of the care team and play a role in decision making (NEJM Catalyst, 2017). If society understood patient-centered care, then I think mental health would not be stigmatized the way it is.
Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) can be a social change agent by being a voice for our patients and utilizing patient-centered care. Practicing care coordination and collaborating with the patient, their family, and other healthcare providers is essential. Society has a negative attitude about mental illness because the majority of people do not understand it. Thus, providing education to the community is also a key to breaking the stigma.
How I Will Advocate for Change Within My Community
I will advocate for change in my community by practicing patient-centered care. I will do this by including the patient and their family when discussing options and decisions. I will listen to the patient to understand their preferences, cultural traditions, and socioeconomic condition (NEJM Catalyst, 2016). I will provide education within the community to educate those who are unfamiliar with mental illness. I will also work in rural areas to help those in underserved areas have access to mental health care.
Bennett, T. (2015). Changing the way society understands mental health. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/April-2015/Changing-The-Way-Society-Understands-Mental-Health
Casados, A. T. (2016). What makes mental illness stigma so hard to change and to study? Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. Retrieved from https://www.div12.org/what-makes-mental-illness-stigma-so-hard-to-change-and-also-to-study/
Dingfelder, S. F. (2009). Stigma: Alive and well. American Psychological Association, 40(6), 56. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/06/stigma
NEJM Catalyst. (2017). What is patient-centered care? Retrieved from https://catalyst.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/CAT.17.0559
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