November 2017 APNA President's Message
My Theme: What it is, What it Means, How it Applies to You
Linda S. Beeber, PhD, PMHCNS-BC, FAAN
What is health equity? Simply, it’s the opportunity for all groups of people to be as healthy as possible. It follows, then, that for us as a nation to achieve health equity, we must ensure that all groups receive equal access to care that enables them to lead full and healthy lives. Since whole health begins with mental health, mental health needs* must be prioritized (at the very least) at the same level as other health needs. We know that that is currently not the case.
That is why I have chosen this as my President’s theme for the year: Trusted Agents of Change: Nurses Balancing Inequities in Mental Health Care.
There are a lot of concepts packed into this theme. Here’s how I break it down:
TRUSTED AGENTS OF CHANGE
- Nurses are consistently the most trusted profession in the US
- Psychiatric-mental health nurses’ education and training gives us finely honed skills to act as agents of change on multiple levels
- Psychiatric-mental health nurses offer the human touchpoint in places where people at risk for mental illness and substance use disorders live and work
- Psychiatric-mental health nursing brings a rich legacy of self-reflection, understanding humans in life and developmental contexts and co-creating collaborative, actionable goals
INEQUITIES IN MENTAL HEALTH CARE
|" I encourage you to take this issue of balancing inequities in health care personally. Knowing the power that you hold in your hands, how will you direct it? "|
- Neuropsychiatric disorders are the leading cause of disability in the US
- Mental illness and substance use disorders cut across economic, age, ethnic, and geographic characteristics
- Stigma and public avoidance have pushed people with mental health risks, mental illness, and substance use disorders into the shadows.
- Only 10%-30% of people needing treatment for mental health issues including substance use disorders have received treatment
- People with serious mental illness have severe co-occurring chronic health conditions, high unemployment and consequently live below the poverty line
- 1.1 million Americans with serious mental illnesses are incarcerated each year
- Twice as many Americans die by suicide as by homicide
- Currently, people at risk for or living with mental illness or substance use disorders systematically experience health inequities
- In a fair, just, and equitable system, persons with mental health needs would have equal access to healthcare just as those with other health conditions
- Equal access would enable them to lead healthy lives
- Psychiatric-mental health nurses can direct our powerful nurse energy towards barriers that prevent people at risk for or living with mental illness and substance use disorders from having the fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible
- Psychiatric-mental health nurses must leverage our trust and expertise to break down barriers and bring change in areas such as stigma, treatment contexts, social integration, and access to care.
I encourage you to take this issue of balancing inequities in health care personally. Knowing the power that you hold in your hands, how will you direct it? What actions have you taken to break down the barriers that keep our patients from getting the opportunity to be as healthy as possible? Share these actions on Member Bridge, in an abstract for the Annual Conference, or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This theme, with your feedback, will shape much of our work over the coming year, from our messaging to stakeholders to the educational program of the 2018 Annual Conference. You play an important part in this. Think of APNA in terms of a hive mind: the more concrete actions, concepts, and ideas we share, the bigger of a collective impact we make.
Linda S. Beeber, PhD, PMHCNS-BC, FAAN
*For the purposes of this message, mental health needs include substance use needs.