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Nurse Practitioners (NPs) Can Make a Difference in Mental Health Awareness

Psych 2

By Heather Kays

Learn how to combat the increase in mental health challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder, and NPs observed an even greater increase in depression, anxiety and other mental health issues in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During Mental Health Awareness Month in May, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) continued its efforts to raise awareness about mental health. Throughout the year, AANP provides essential continuing education (CE) courses for NPs and offer additional ways NPs can support patients with mental health or substance use disorders.

NPs have an important opportunity to provide appropriate treatments for patients with mental health needs, and psychiatric mental health NPs (PMHNPs) have specialized training to provide therapy and prescribe medication-assisted treatment for patients who have mental health concerns or a substance use disorder (SUD).

The nation’s 355,000 NPs are working hard to raise awareness of the substantial increase in mental health struggles experienced by people of all ages — including adolescents and children — due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2021 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic. Findings from the poll indicate that the pandemic has negatively impacted the mental health of adults in every age group (18-65+), ranging from a 29% increase in mental health challenges to a more than 56% increase among those surveyed.

AANP President April Kapu, DNP, APRN, ACNP- BC, FAANP, FCCM, FAAN, said NPs have led the way in highlighting and addressing the importance of mental health treatment during the pandemic. “Nurse practitioners have stepped up over and over again to create access to vital health care services — before and throughout the pandemic,” said Kapu. “House calls, telehealth, urgent care centers, mobile testing and vaccination centers are just a few settings in which NPs have led to increase community access to care. They have staffed emergency departments, intensive care units and COVID-19 inpatient specialty units. Throughout it all, NPs have provided mental health services and support for their patients and their communities. Now, it’s time for legislators, hospital leaders and clinical teams to prioritize mental health for NPs and other essential caregivers.”

AANP Supports Your Practice and Your Well-Being

As NPs care for patients on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, AANP remains committed to ensuring you have access to the CE activities, clinical resources and wellness tools you need to continue bringing your best to patient care. AANP offers numerous CE courses addressing mental health, including managing depression and anxiety in patients, medication-assisted treatment for SUD, behavioral health and trauma response. A number of national conference sessions are also available in person or on-demand to supplement your knowledge in these areas. Register today for the 2022 AANP National Conference in Orlando and the 2022 AANP National Conference — On-demand. If you have a special interest in psychology and mental health, or if you are a PMHNP, consider joining the AANP Psych and Mental Health Community. Additionally, there is no time like the present to prioritize your own well-being. A new member benefit, NPower: Your Wellness is an AANP wellness program designed to support you in eight key areas of wellness. Take advantage of these resources today!

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