A Nurse Practitioner’s Thoughts on Mental Health Awareness

A Nurse Practitioner’s Thoughts on Mental Health Awareness

By Kathleen T. McCoy, DNSc, PMHNP-BC, PMHCNS-BC, FNP-BC, FAANP

May is a wonderful month, filled with the newness of spring! Yet during springtime and throughout the year, many people may experience challenges thinking clearly or managing their emotions. If you can relate to these experiences, May might be an opportune time to take a self-inventory and speak candidly with family or friends who have offered their support.

According to the World Health Organization, depression is the top cause of disability and disease worldwide! Yet, surprisingly, many people do not know they are experiencing depression. Clinical depression is more serious than feeling bad, low or disappointed. The established criteria for depression include low feelings as well as a change in energy or activity levels, which may present as the inability to engage in one’s usual activities. Lethargy, fatigue, irritability — and even oversleeping — can be symptoms of depression.

Other symptoms may include excessive fears or worries, extreme feelings of guilt, high and low mood changes and the inability to cope with daily problems or stress.

Importantly, with early identification and treatment, depression and other mental health concerns can be managed more effectively. This is one reason why regular checkups are key to successful health maintenance for all individuals.

Help is available. If you have had experiences that color the way you see the world now, that make you feel uncomfortable or that are preventing you from having a better life, now is the time to seek help.

There are things you can do to improve your mental health. Talking about your feelings can help you deal with the times when you feel troubled. Be sure to stay active. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, improve your sleep and make you feel better. Eat well. Your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function optimally, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that is good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.

Here are some pearls to share with someone who may be depressed (and that might even be you):

  • It’s okay to not feel okay.
  • You are not alone.
  • You can move forward in the face of your depression.
  • Help is available.
  • Your story is not over.

To screen for depression and other mental health conditions, you may see some recent changes in health care settings that incorporate the use of questionnaires. These “Measurement-Based Care” questionnaires may be used before or during an appointment. They are evidence-based tools that support disease prevention and help inform diagnosis and treatment as well as referrals. Please complete these questionnaires fully and accurately if they are offered in your health care setting, as the use of these tools can help increase the accuracy and timeliness of care delivery.

If you think that you or someone you know is displaying any of the above signs — or if someone asks for help — do not delay seeking treatment! Most mental health concerns are better addressed sooner than later. Leaning into proverbial wisdom, I urge you to take preventive measures, and I encourage speedy action when you feel or see signs and symptoms of any mental health concern.

Should you or someone you know be thinking about self-harm or suicide:

  • Use Psych Central suicide prevention resources or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or via text to 838255.
  • If someone is in immediate danger, call 911 and advise them that the call is related to a mental health crisis.
    • Remain with the person until help arrives, removing potential items of harm (substances or weapons, etc.).
    • If connected by phone, remain on the line until help arrives.
    • Simply listen to the individual without arguing, judging or threatening.

During this season of new beginnings, why not consider a nurse practitioner (NP) for your health care needs and for those of your family and friends? Together, NPs and the patients who choose NPs for the high-quality care they provide, can help keep America physically and mentally healthy.

Here’s to your health!