Statistics show that “approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S., or 43.8 million people, experiences mental illness in a given year” (National, 2018a, p. 1). The adolescent population, ages 13-18, accounts for “21.4% of mental health illness cases” (National, 2018, p. 1) which doesn’t include the “estimated 13% of children ages 8-15” (National, 2018a, p. 1) also suffering with mental illness in any given year. In the U.S. of the “20.2 million adults living with substance abuse, 10.2 million of them have a co-occurring mental illness (National, 2018a, p. 1) and the price tag for treating mental health illnesses costs “America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year” (National, 2018a, p. 1). These statistics demonstrate a very big problem accompanied by very few solutions. Advocating better care for our mental health patient population will also target the homeless and substance abuse populations as well. Proper care can help give these people a second chance at life to live independently, secure employment, and to be productive citizens within their communities.
There are several ways to help advocate better care for those suffering with mental illness including, “joining or starting a local support chapter, becoming a local advocate, volunteer, or becoming an ambassador” (Depression, 2018, p. 1). Being involved can “make a real difference, not only in your own life, but in the lives of others” (Depression, 2018, p. 1). A lot of patients that suffer with mental illness aren’t being heard or acknowledged for the treatment they desperately need, so it’s up to the general population to join and support this type of patient care and to show that mental health care is just as important as physical health care.
Advocating for those suffering with mental illness “improves the individuals’ understanding of their situation, enables their views to be heard, ensures that they have the opportunity to be partners in their care and increases their autonomy” (Varghese, 2015, p. 1). Advocating also “promotes the rights of those who suffer discrimination because of their age, disability, sexuality, gender or culture, and it can ensure the quality of the care system” (Varghese, 2015, p. 1).
The only way that change can occur is to make the issue aware, give it a face for people to see. The stigma on mental illness needs to come to an end. When a patient breaks their arm, they can go the hospital without judgement and get proper medical treatment and within a few weeks their arm will heal and be useful again. However, when a patient suffers from a mental or psychotic break, they go to hospital and are judged from the beginning and then drugged until they act in a way that society will accept them. A large population of mental health patients are diagnosed with illnesses they were born with or due to trauma they inherited them throughout life. Instead of offering proper treatment and acceptance, healthcare providers are easily frustrated and judgmental because they either don’t care or don’t understand.
Ways to help promote change and encourage education is by asking your local governor to make a proclamation, take action on advocacy issues, ask businesses and landmarks to light up green to raise awareness, address culture barriers, speak with teens, hand out ribbons and education, host an event, volunteer, implement a free community outreach program, become a program trainer, or help run a support group (National, 2018b, p. 1). The end goal needs to be better and reliable care for our mental health patient population and to educate enough to end the stigma, so those suffering will no longer feel the need to hide and be scared of what others will think.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. (2018). Advocate for mental health. Retrieved from: https://secure2.convio.net/dabsa/site/SPageServer/PageServer?pagename=help_advocate_mental_health.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2018a). Mental health by the numbers. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2018b). Become a leader in the mental health movement. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/What-Can-I-Do-/Become-a-Leader-in-the-Mental-Health-Movement.
Varghese, J. (2015). Advocacy in mental health: offering a voice to the voiceless. Indian Journal of Social Psychiatry. Retrieved from: http://www.indjsp.org/article.asp?issn=0971-9962;year=2015;volume=31;issue=1;spage=4;epage=8;aulast=Varghese.
There are many views on mental health. Some cultures view mental health issues as a sign of familial conflict. Or as a sign to receive divine intervention or forgiveness. While other cultures have a more negative view such as demonic possession or a supernatural phenomenon (Choudhry et al., 2016). In America about one in four adults are diagnosed with some type mental health disorder (CDC, 2014). This can be from substance abuse, anxiety disorders or mood disorders. The commonality of mental health is an issue that will be faced in practice as well as the negative or unknown view of the public on mental health. This is were becoming an advocate and educator are important to make change for patients dealing with mental health issues.
Education and Mental Health
One of the foundational duties of being a nurse practitioner is to educate. This includes not only the patient, but the public. By educating the public on the facts of mental health is a start. Another beneficial strategy is educating the public on the signs and symptoms of mental health. For example, a mother may notice her once vibrant and social teenager is now distant and tearful. The mother may believe her child is “going through a phase”, when the teen is suffering from depression with suicidal ideation. Or when an individual has a stressful job and uses alcohol to help him “relax”.
Becoming a Social Change Agent for Mental Health
Education of the public can be done in many ways. Handing out pamphlets is a helpful approach, but this approach is limited. Venturing to different places, such as schools, offices and churches and speaking with individuals about mental health are ways to reach a wide variety of people. By having local mental health awareness sessions where people from all different walks of life come to learn about the facts of mental health is an initiative that allows people to ask question about mental health issues. This also allows for discriminatory or perceptions of mental health disorders to be addressed. Through education, the stigma associated with mental health can be changed.
Centers for Disease Control. (2012). Attitudes Towards Mental Illness. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/hrqol/Mental_Health_Reports/pdf/BRFSS_Full%20Report.pdf
Choudhry, F. R., Mani, V., Ming, L. C., & Khan, T. M. (2016). Beliefs and perception about mental health issues: a meta-synthesis. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 12, 2807-2818. doi:10.2147/NDT.S111543