Nurse Practitioners (NPs) Urge Patients, Policymakers to Prioritize Mental Health During Mental Health Awareness Month

May 11, 2021

AUSTIN, TEXAS — The American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) is encouraging Americans to prioritize their mental health and to seek out screening and treatment as the nation combats the COVID-19 pandemic. May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when our nation raises awareness that mental health is a core component to overall health and highlights the importance of expanding access to mental health care.

“NPs screen and treat patients for physical and mental health needs and understand the important role mental health plays in overall well-being,” said AANP President Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP. “With one in four Americans likely to experience a mental health issue in their lifetime, it is important to know that effective treatments are available.”

As of March 2021, more than 122 million U.S. residents lived in a mental health professional shortage area where just 27% of the need is met, and it is abundantly clear that our nation must embrace the policies and innovations necessary to bolster its mental health care infrastructure.

“Given the pressing need for mental health care and the limited number of mental health specialists nationwide, we urge states to strengthen patients’ access to NPs. We play a vital role in addressing mental health needs and providing patients with treatment,” said Thomas.

Many of the nation’s 325,000 NPs are working to raise awareness of the significant increase in mental health struggles experienced by people of all ages, including adolescents and even children, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2021 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that four in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic. The poll shows that the pandemic has negatively impacted the mental health of adults at every age (18-65+), ranging from 29% to more than 56% among those surveyed.

“NPs want patients to know they are not alone. Many people are struggling with their mental health in the midst of COVID-19,” said AANP President-elect April Kapu, DNP, APRN, ACNP- BC, FAANP, FCCM, FAAN. “There are steps that everyone can take to reduce stress and anxiety levels, such as improving self-care, exercising and connecting with loved ones to feel less isolated or anxious. For symptoms that are more persistent or are interfering with daily life, it’s time to reach out to an NP or other mental health provider. Please take care of yourself and also check in with friends, family and neighbors to ensure they are coping well.”