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The Role of Nursing in Promoting Mental Health

Mental health awareness has become increasingly important in the last decade. While certain aspects of mental health remain stigmatized, medical professionals and the public are understanding the damaging effects mental health issues have on families, local communities and across the globe.

This includes nurses, as they are the first line of care among patients. Even if patients (or colleagues) don’t explicitly ask for help, there are certain clues nurses can pick up on — thus initiating the conversation surrounding mental health concerns.

Nurses Are at the Forefront of Mental Healthcare Delivery

The role of nursing in promoting mental health is a multifaceted and critical aspect of healthcare — even more so in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. Nurses are at the forefront of healthcare delivery, especially in respect to forming trusted relationships with patients. They play a vital role in both understanding and addressing the mental health needs of patients, their colleagues and themselves.

Graduates from Northeastern State University’s online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program are prepared to tackle these challenges. Below is a look into why nurses can effect change in the mental health landscape and why mental healthcare is critical.

Efforts to Advance Comprehensive Care

Nurses are uniquely positioned to provide comprehensive care in mental health settings. They support the restoration of mental health and well-being for individuals and families using skilled, professional care. This care includes the following responsibilities:

  • educating the public to replace stereotypes with accurate knowledge about mental health
  • cultivating trusting relationships for exploring mental health problems
  • encouraging adherence to treatments
  • conveying hope to those who are wrestling with mental health issues
  • motivating people to utilize services​​

From Community Outreach to One-on-One Interventions

The scope of nursing in mental health extends across various settings, including child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), schools, community health centers, general practice and specialized services like drug and alcohol centers. Nurses also work with diverse populations in urban, rural and indigenous communities. The principles of mental health promotion apply across these different work settings, highlighting the adaptability and broad skill set of nurses in this field​​.

The elderly is another population in need of mental health care. Nurses can offer significant support to senior patients in managing their mental health. This involves understanding the specific mental health needs of the elderly, which may include dealing with loneliness, depression and anxiety — often exacerbated by physical health issues and social isolation.

With such a wide range of need, nurses who excel in mitigating mental health concerns have numerous career opportunities within their grasp.

Impact of COVID-19 on Nurses’ Mental Health

While nurses play an important role in patients’ mental well-being, they benefit just as much themselves from understanding mental healthcare. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected the psychological health of nurses, and many facing mental complications such as psychological distress and fear.

Nurses were identified as a high-risk population for adverse mental health outcomes during the pandemic. It triggered further mental health challenges among nursing staff, emphasizing the need for healthy coping skills and therapeutic interventions to help nurses reintegrate into their roles as healthcare professionals​​​​​​.

Nurse leaders play an especially critical role in maintaining awareness and addressing mental health issues. They can be instrumental in promoting recognition of mental health stressors and implementing treatment strategies​​​​. Nurses who have mental health knowledge can help both their patients and themselves.

Mental Health Treatment Modalities

Even if nurses aren’t the ones administering treatments for patients’ mental health concerns, they are a valuable resource when it comes to education about various options. Treatment modalities for mental healthcare are diverse and tailored to meet the specific needs of everyone.

One of the primary modalities is psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, which involves various therapeutic techniques. It includes the following approaches:

  • cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps patients identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors
  • dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), particularly effective for borderline personality disorder and involving skills in mindfulness and emotional regulation
  • psychodynamic therapy, which focuses on understanding past influences on current behavior
  • Medication management (often used in conjunction with psychotherapy) includes psychiatric medications like antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety medications — all important for balancing brain chemistry and alleviating symptoms

Additionally, there are integrative approaches that combine traditional methods with alternative treatments like mindfulness, meditation, yoga and art therapy. These approaches aim to treat the individual holistically, considering the mind-body connection and the importance of overall wellness.

A nurse who has thorough knowledge in mental health treatment modalities and approaches can provide the best possible care. An advanced nursing degree is a critical way in which nursing professionals gain this knowledge.

Preparing Future Nurses for Mental Healthcare

There’s no denying that there is a significant need for nurses who have a solid understanding of mental health issues and the resulting care. In NSU’s RN to BSN online program, coursework equips nurses with the knowledge and skills necessary to understand and effectively respond to mental health needs in various situations. The Person & Family Centered Nursing Care course and the Health Assessment course equip graduates with knowledge in holistic health and health assessment practices, which often consider mental health.

With this educational foundation, BSN-prepared nurses have the unique opportunity to serve as future agents of change for their patient populations, their colleagues and themselves.

Learn more about Northeastern State University’s online RN to BSN program.

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