Check Your Mental Health IQ

By Rebecca Mikell Reynolds, MA, LMFT, BSN RN, CPAN, CAPA, CPN
Check Your Mental Health IQ
As public awareness of mental health moves to the forefront, nurses are in a unique position to promote education that supports early identification, prevention and timely intervention. As empowered healthcare professionals, we help protect and heal the hearts and minds of our patients. We are also called to temper the misdirected shame associated with seeking help.

Research shows that “one in five American adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year [and]…only 41% of them will receive accurate diagnosis, treatment and services” (SAMHSA, 2014; Kessler et al., 2005). Even more concerning is the significant delay in treatment, which “ranges from 6 to 8 years for mood disorders and 9 to 23 years for anxiety disorders” (Wang et al., 2005). This means that serious mental health conditions including suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and resulting substance abuse, (used in an effort to self-medicate), will take an average of ten years before they are treated (MHA, 2015).

In their 2015 observance campaign, Mental Health America (MHA) promoted that early diagnosis and intervention for mental health conditions is just as critical to an individual’s survival as treating a patient for diabetes, cancer or heart disease. Nationwide, untreated mental health disorders contribute to school dropouts, unemployment and a rise in incarceration rates, emphasizing the importance of timely and appropriate treatment (MHA, 2015).

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), mental health conditions are not only common, but are also highly treatable due to advances in research (HIMH, n.d.). There are a wide variety of treatment options available, ranging from talk therapy to medication and peer support; free and sliding scale options are also readily available. Though it may take some time for a person to find the right treatment or combination of treatments, the results can be transformational.

If someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, they can complete a screening checklist, such as the free online test at www.mhascreening.org. Screening results can be a good way to start the conversation with one’s primary care provider, a trusted friend and/or family member, before planning a course of action for possible treatment (MHA, 2015).

If you or someone you know is in need of more immediate assistance, call 1-800-662-HELP. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also offers immediate assistance for all Americans, including service members and veterans, at 1-800-273-TALK (The White House, 2015).

As healthcare professionals, we commonly reinforce the importance of tangible life-saving techniques such as CPR to our patients and their families. Likewise, it is equally important to equip ourselves with go-to emotional survival strategies. Have the courage to begin the discussion about mental health awareness in your facility, on your unit and in your home. In the words of President Barack Obama, “Asking for help is not a sign of weakness -- taking action to help yourself is a sign of strength” (The White House, 2015). After all, there is no health without mental health (MHA, 2015).

To learn more, check out the RN.com CE course Caring for Patients with Mental Health Disorders.


Kessler et al. (2005). Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, (62) 593, 595.

Mental Health America [MHA]. (2015). May is Mental Health Month. Retrieved from here.

National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH]. (n.d.). Mental Health Information. Retrieved from here.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Be¬havioral Health Statistics and Quality [SAMHSA]. (2014). The NSDUH Report: Substance Use and Mental Health Estimates from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Overview of Findings. Rockville, MD.

The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. (2015, April 30). Presidential Proclamation—National Mental Health Awareness Month. [Press release]. Retrieved from here.

Wang, P.S., Berglund, P., Olfson, M., Pincus, H.A. & Wells, K.B. (2005). Failure and delay in initial treatment contact after first onset of mental disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), 603-13.

© 2015. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Rebecca Mikell Reynolds has over 16 years of diverse nursing experience working within the following specialties: education & staff development, perianesthesia care unit, pediatric & adult emergency room, adult neuro-Intensive care and fixed wing air ambulance transport team. She achieved her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Rebecca’s graduate studies include a Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy with a focus on medical family therapy from the University of San Diego.