According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental health disorders are costing the US economy more and more every year. In 2018, the country lost about $230bn, about 35% more than in 2010. As we learn more about mental disorders, their causes and how they are treated, it makes sense to invest in treating these disorders and ensuring that psychiatric nurses are properly trained and equipped to deal with patients.
Nurses contribute significantly to mental health services in the US. They are the single largest group of providers, and we currently have about 39,000 psychiatric nurses working in our healthcare facilities. If projections are correct, many more will join the profession in the coming decade, and thousands more Americans will be able to access high-quality mental health services.
These are significant investments in mental health. Are they worth it? What is the business case for investing in mental health services, especially those provided by nurses? If you plan to become a psychiatric nurse, then this is an important issue to explore. It tells you where your profession is headed and it may even guide your choice of courses.
One way to become a psychiatric nurse is to enroll in an online PMHNP, such as the course available at Rockhurst University. The program prepares students for a leadership role as a mental health advocate, and it includes topics such as professional roles, quality and safety for advanced nursing practice, advanced health research, psychopharmacology for advanced practice in psychiatric nursing and advanced pharmacology.
To qualify, it is necessary to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and nursing accreditation from CCNE or ACEN, an active Registered Nurse license, a GPA of at least 3.0, and letters of recommendation. All the coursework is online, so this is an ideal course for working professionals who may not have a lot of time.
Even as students train to become psychiatric nurses, they need to be aware of some of the main issues that are relevant to this field, including why it makes sense for the country to continue investing in mental health nursing services.
Why do state and federal governments invest in mental health nursing services?
The main reason why the country is investing in mental health is because there is a direct return. According to one report, for every dollar that is invested in helping someone who suffers from a mental health disorder, there is a $7 return when they are healed and become functioning members of society after their treatment. Additionally, when people are treated early for mental health conditions, they tend to enjoy better health overall, requiring less treatment, fewer medications, and limited or no care.
Mental health disorders are a drain on the economy. People who are diagnosed are not usually able to work, and this lowers productivity. The individual has to receive benefits from the state, and as they aren’t able to work, there is no way to recover any of the money that is spent on them. Treating mental health problems is also expensive, and the country spends billions of dollars on the treatment and care of mental health patients every year.
For many of the disorders, catching them early makes them easier to treat, and also cheaper. If a nurse can diagnose a patient in the early stages of addiction or depression, they can get them on the right treatment right away, and it helps avoid an escalation of costs down the line.
There are additional reasons why it makes economic sense for states to invest in mental health care:
- Research shows that comprehensive mental health care for children and adolescents cuts hospital admissions by up to 40%.
- Studies have shown that intervention programs, whether they are offered by psychiatric nurses or other mental health professionals, are cost-effective. For every $1 spent on intervention, there is a $21 return.
- Antidepressant medication reduces healthcare costs by a significant margin, not just for sufferers of depression, but also for other illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. A study of health insurers shows that patients who are using antidepressants tend to have lower medical bills. The direct links are not obvious and researchers are working to find out the reasons behind this trend.
- The average cost for the state to treat an addict is $1,583, and the benefit to society after they kick their addiction is about $11,500.
It makes business sense to treat mental health disorders because once people are healed or have their illness under control, they become contributing members of society and are part of the active economy. If they are left untreated and uncared for, not only do they continue to be a drain on the state and their families, but they also cost more to treat over the years.
Early interventions make sense. The sooner a psychiatric nurse can diagnose a mental disorder, the sooner the patient can start treatment, and the cheaper it is for the individual and their family, the state and the country as a whole.
What does the future look like for psychiatric nurses in America?
The services that these nurses provide are in great demand, and projections show that their numbers will grow in the future. For anyone who trains as a mental health nurse today, there will be plenty of jobs in the coming years.
Nurses must be careful to keep their skills up to date by enrolling in continuing education courses and attending industry events such as seminars and conferences. It is also vital for psychiatric nurses to take care of their mental health. The job can be quite stressful, and it isn’t unheard of for nurses to suffer from burnout. A nurse who is stressed out cannot help their patients.
To be effective, mental health nurses should take time to rest between shifts, get enough sleep during their time off, and meet up with family and friends to decompress. They should also eat a healthy, balanced diet to maintain the stamina that is required for the job.
Psychiatric nurses provide the bulk of mental health services that are needed in the US, and the services they provide help people rejoin society and become productive members. It therefore makes business sense to ensure that these nurses are trained and equipped to help patients because once healed, they can contribute directly to the economy.