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Influencing Social Change for Psychiatric Mental Health
It is undeniable that mental illness is rampant across all ages, regardless of social status or educational background. More than a year ago, I came across a documentary regarding schizophrenia on the television. The case is about a brilliant woman from the east coast who loves to read and do journal. The documentary is based on the thoughts written in the diary, and the account of loved ones and colleagues.
In her early years, she was an avid reader, achiever, and a consistent honor student. She works in a restaurant while attending college and eventually got married and had a child. She then got divorced. That is when she started showing symptoms of schizophrenia and got in and out of prison for causing trouble. She was charged with a felony when she spat on an officer. She could not find a job because of her record. She has been on medications and therapies, which she complied on and off. She traveled to New York and survived to loiter in the city, and talking to people acting as a tour guide. The people whom she came across had no idea she had schizophrenia, as she was brilliant and well-knowledgeable. She was found dead by a realtor in an abandoned house, where she discovered her favorite books to read in the attic and entertained herself by reading. In her diary, she documented her daily routine, such as going to the river to clean herself up, finding apples from the people’s yard to survive while avoiding them so she won’t get caught, and her love for books. Included in her diary was her longing to eat warm meals, trouble with the police, and also thoughts about people judging her.
People with a mental disorder has been stigmatized in our society. According to Livingston et al. (2014), the police worry for their safety likely influences the nature and perception of their encounter with people, which is expected with the research revealing individuals with mental illness who sense defenseless and pressured be likely to undergo an elevated degree of internalized stigma. A PMHNP knowledge of this disease may bring a strong influence on the advocacy for this population.
In contrast to the past, a psychiatrist or psychotherapist consultation has become a less typical and more received method in dealing with psychiatric health problems (Angermeyer, Matschinger, & Schomerus (2013). Once a patient is diagnosed with mental illness and experience trouble with law enforcement, a PMHNP can greatly advocate in this matter. There should be a line drawn to felony charges in this instance when the patient has no prior criminal record, and just a spat on the police officer has resulted in a felony.
I do understand law enforcement as I came from a family of police officers. However, this judgment is extreme for an individual with a mental disorder. She did not kill a person; she just spat on the police officer during which she conceived she is in a threatened environment within her unhealthy mindset. As a PMHNP in this instance, I can bring my expertise in mental health in defense of this kind of client. It is filling the gap between a mentally ill person and law enforcement.
Change Advocacy within the Community
According to Action for Advocacy (2002), as cited by Ridley, Newbigging, & Street (2018), advocacy is assisting people to “have an opinion” and is framed as a way to attain social justice. As a PMHNP, I can advocate for these people in my community by being their voice. One way to bring this change to the community is to encourage people to join the “Mental Health Walk.” People need to understand how mental disease affect a person, and how can they be of help to those people affected directly and indirectly. By doing so, it will change their attitude towards people with a mental disorder.
There should be a change in how people react towards mentally ill persons. A study in Germany showed that in 1990, people express less fear from individuals with schizophrenia, and felt less intolerant and insecure with them than in 2011, where they showed more need for compassion and responses with less trepidation to people with depression. Also, the desire for social distance from people with mental disease is stronger in 2011 (Angermeyer et al., 2013).
Educating the community regarding mental illness can have a profound effect on the mentally ill population. They, too, deserve to be regarded equally just like other people without stigma. Once the community is educated regarding what mental disorder entails, it will change their perception of this population. According to Bennett (2015), she read online articles to understand mental illness better that changed her life and her perception of mental illness. It is just one way of educating oneself towards attaining mental health consciousness.
The impact of a PMHNP as an advocate for mentally ill persons cannot be stressed enough. The knowledge in psychiatric and mental health is one significant advantage to bring change in the community.
Angermeyer, M. C., Matschinger, H., & Schomerus, G. (2013). Attitudes towards psychiatric treatment and people with mental illness: changes over two decades. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 203(2), 146-151. Retrieved from
Bennet, T. (2015). Changing the way society understands mental health. National Alliance on Mental Health. Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/April-2015/ Changing-The-Way-Society-Understands-Mental-Health
Livingston, J. D., Desmarais, S. L., Verdun-Jones, S., Parent, R., Michalak, E., & Brink, J. (2014). Perceptions and experiences of people with mental illness regarding their interactions with police. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 37(4), 334-340.
Ridley, J., Newbigging, K., & Street, C. (2018). Mental health advocacy outcomes from service user perspectives. Mental Health Review Journal, 23(4), 280-292.