Strategic Update: Whole Health Begins with Mental Health

Last month, leaders from APNA Chapters and Councils across the country met with the APNA Board of Directors to inform the Board as it set the organization’s strategic direction. The full day of discussion centered on President Kris McLoughlin’s theme for the year, Whole Health Begins with Mental Health. In one strategic exercise, leaders envisioned an ideal world 5 years from now where mental health is widely seen at the foundation for overall health throughout America. Leaders broke into groups to brainstorm elements of what that world would look like.

Ideas shared ranged from mental health being named the "fifth vital sign" to an overall shift in thinking about health care “from a focus on dollars to a focus on people”. Many discussions explored community health approaches, including nurse-led solutions to the opioid crisis and putting psychiatric-mental health nurses in public schools. One group imagined a psychiatric-mental health nurse task force that built a team of paraprofessionals to deliver mental health care across cities. In conjunction with trauma outreach initiatives, such a team would be able to strengthen both family ties and community resilience. Following this brainstorming session, leaders examined current forces that could help drive this change, or prevent it from happening.

Common themes emerged through this exercise: the importance of community-based approaches and partnerships, empowering psychiatric-mental health nurses, promoting resilience, and ensuring early intervention. "Discussions like these provide an opportunity for us to articulate what we want for the future of mental health," said APNA President Kris McLoughlin, DNP, APRN, PMH-CNS, BC, CADC-II, FAAN. "They help us clarify our vision and drive the paradigm shift that whole health begins with mental health."

Informed by these themes and the day of discussion, the Board of Directors developed a new APNA Position Paper. The paper, APNA Position Statement: Whole Health Begins with Mental Health, was approved on March 14, 2017, and explores the status of mental health issues under the current system, recommendations for the future, and how psychiatric-mental health nurses can support these changes. Visit to see how you can use the position paper to help transform the meaning of health to one that is proactive and focused on wellness.

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