By Debra Wood, RN, contributor
Recognizing the importance of mental as well as physical wellness, AMN Healthcare and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) have entered into a StigmaFree Company partnership.
“With one in five Americans experiencing mental illness every year, we decided not to shy away from having conversations about mental illness,” said Kristin Mitas, AMN’s wellness ambassador. “We want to build a psychologically safe environment for team members to speak openly about their experiences.”
NAMI works with its StigmaFree partners to help in building a mental health movement, by providing expertise and resources to help the company cultivate a culture supportive of mental health. NAMI presented a webinar on the topic in June for AMN employees; in the near future, more training will be presented by internal staff.
Breaking down the stigma of mental illness
Stigma serves as a barrier to people receiving mental health care, NAMI reports. Education, focusing on the person and taking action are ways to combat stigma.
“We’re making a pledge to remove the stigma around mental illness and allow people to have conversations about mental illness in a safe environment,” Mitas explained. “The stigma leaves people feeling they are alone and unable to ask for help. They may isolate. Mental illness is common, and it’s treatable. We don’t want stigma to keep people from getting the help they need.”
Fewer than half of adults in need of mental health services receive them, and the average delay between symptoms and care is eight to 10 years, according to NAMI.
Taking the lead on mental health
Partnering with NAMI sets AMN apart from many other companies, Mitas said. It demonstrates a commitment to addressing mental health and pursuing treatment for people who need it.
“We want to do our part to allow conversations about mental health to happen,” Mitas said. “We are hoping our clinicians and healthcare professionals will be advocates and support mental health in their conversations. They may be the first point of contact and can be a gateway to get the help, the mental-health support they need.”
COVID-19 contributing to mental health concerns
Although the COVID-19 epidemic has brought to the surface many mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, AMN had started the journey with NAMI long before the pandemic, Mitas said. But now that the virus is here and taking a toll on frontline nurses and other healthcare professionals, the partnership is even more meaningful and has opened the doors to profound conversations.
“It’s time to take action,” Mitas said. “As soon as this opportunity came to our attention, I jumped on it immediately to see what we could do to support the team better.”
Clinicians on assignment who are feeling stress, anxiety, depression or other emotions can safely talk with their recruiters, who have received training about how to respond and refer as needed.
“We want this to go beyond the internal team members and for clinicians to become champions for mental wellness,” Mitas said. “The more we can communicate this and the sooner we implement that, the quicker we will get to that point.”
Building on a series of supports
“We place a great value on our culture and team member well-being and want to let them know they are not alone,” Mitas said. “We want to help our team members thrive.”
AMN has a wellness program that supports team members on many levels, including mental health. The employee assistance program is staffed with mental health counselors who can provide real-time counseling to stressed-out professional caregivers. AMN insurance plans also offer virtual visits.
Nurses and other travelers might be more comfortable talking with a friend or family members, which is OK. Mental health issues are more commonplace than people often realize.
“Now we are placing a greater emphasis on this, because it is such a prominent issue in this country, Mitas said. “We want mental illness to be viewed the same as any other illness.”
Pledge to Be StigmaFree – NAMI
StigmaFree Partnership Companies - NAMI
How to Dispel the Stigma of Mental Illness
AMN Healthcare offers a robust employee assistance program to support the physical and psychological health of our corporate staff and clinicians.
LEARN MORE ABOUT AMN HEALTHCARE