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Mental Health Awareness Month: Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A female NP provides compassionate care for a patient with mental health concerns

This Mental Health Awareness Month, nurse practitioners (NPs) are helping to address the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on patients. However, it’s also important for NPs to address their own mental health needs.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder. Not only do primary care providers like NPs treat their patients with mental health needs, but psychiatric mental health NPs (PMHNPs) also provide therapy and prescribe medications for patients who have mental health disorders or substance abuse problems.

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) is joining the movement to raise awareness about mental health, provide essential NP continuing education (CE) and offer additional ways NPs can support their patients with mental health or substance use disorders.

NP CE for Mental Health Awareness Month

The AANP CE Center provides a number of psych- and mental health-related CE activities available at no cost or at significantly discounted rates for AANP members.

Search for Psych and Mental Health CE Activities

Mental Health During COVID-19: Health Care Providers

Health care providers, like NPs, may be experiencing high volumes of stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are facing uncertainty due to layoffs, furloughs or emergency declarations limiting nonessential business. NP students have reported experiencing difficulty finding preceptors or reduced clinical hours. Other NPs who are on the front lines treating patients may face burnout and strain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that health care providers and other responders may experience secondary traumatic stress, defined as “reactions and symptoms resulting from exposure to another individual’s traumatic experiences.” The organization offers a number of tips for taking care of yourself, including:

  • Staying alert for signs of elevated stress or burnout.
  • Coping techniques like self-care and colleague support.
  • Establishing a plan to cover any urgent, ongoing work duties as you respond to COVID-19.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is supporting the information needs of school deans, faculty, students and others involved in nursing and NP education by providing:

  • Answers to frequently asked questions from students and faculty, ranging from guidance on clinical learning environments and quality standards to maintaining accreditation, licensing and school operations.
  • A COVID-19 response webinar series, updated weekly.
  • Information on the COVID-19 Nursing Student Support Fund.

In addition, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) offers resources to support the health and well-being of clinicians during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include strategies for health care leaders and managers, as well as for clinicians themselves:

  • Communicate and stay updated on best practices.
  • Enable and engage in cooperation and collaboration.
  • Value clinicians and honor their service.

Mental Health During COVID-19: Patients

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, patients may be experiencing higher levels of anxiety, stress, fear and social isolation. For individuals who have mental health conditions like depression, their symptoms may worsen.

NIMH has educational materials and resources for your practice to help support your patients who are experiencing additional mental health or substance use concerns during this time, including:

  • Educational webinars, articles and interviews.
  • Resources for immediate assistance, such as the suicide prevention hotline (1-800-273-8255), the disaster distress hotline (1-800-985-5990) and the crisis text line (text HELLO to 741741).
  • Graphics and social media messages to share support during times of social distancing and stay-in-place orders.

In addition, visit AANP’s Infectious Disease page to see information and guidelines for patients with high-risk conditions, including patients with mental health concerns.

Visit AANP’s Infectious Disease Page