While recent research has shed light on the importance of addressing mental health, the topic is still stigmatized. Individuals struggling with their mental health can feel ashamed or helpless, which has resulted in attempts at “quick fixes” by healthcare providers or the administration of medication to solve the problem.
However, as the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) explains, while “medications have a place in mental health for neurotransmitter stability, the foundational or functional origin of the problem is likely more complicated. Often this is found within nutrition deficits, neuro-pathway changes in response to trauma, socio-economic factors, or a combination.”
The recognition that many complex factors affect a person’s psychological well-being has led mental health nurse practitioners to adopt a more holistic approach when caring for patients with mental health problems.
Learning how to provide holistic mental health care through methods like these are just a few of the concepts nurses are taught in a Master of Science in Nursing – Psych-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner online program.
What Is a Holistic Approach to Mental Health?
A holistic approach to mental health focuses on the whole person — mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and socially — and not just disease symptoms. Practitioners who use a holistic approach to mental health take a step back so they can see their patient’s overall health profile. This includes lifestyle and relationships, so the healthcare provider understands how all these factors work together to impact their patient.
Understanding how all the body systems and lifestyle factors interconnect is a key first step before determining a care plan. A holistic approach to mental health also focuses on providing support and comfort to the patient, family and community.
How Can Patients Benefit from a Holistic Approach to Mental Health?
Patients benefit from a holistic approach to mental health care in several ways. For example, some patients with mental health conditions also experience other health challenges such as anxiety, inability to sleep, fatigue and other stressors. When these health issues are combined with a mental health condition, treatment can be more complicated. Addressing these other health issues simultaneously helps improve patient outcomes in all these areas.
Other patient benefits of a holistic approach to mental health include:
- Improvements in diet and physical activity levels. Changes in these areas can help reduce anxiety, insomnia, depression and mood swings.
- Using a patient’s mind as a tool to help them heal. This is done by helping patients reframe how they see, interpret and react to particular situations and stimuli. This can be as effective as the administration of psychotropic medication.
- Learning how to manage stress. Stress is usually a trigger for many mental health disorders. Effective stress management is also fundamental in moving a patient towards greater wellness in every area of their life.
A holistic approach to mental health that includes attention to spiritual self-care also has many benefits for patients. A sense of spirituality can promote self-esteem and motivation while helping people process their internal and external experiences.
How Can a Holistic Approach Be Implemented in Mental Health Nursing Practice?
There are many methods and techniques that nurse practitioners can use to help patients improve their mental health. Some of these techniques and methods may be considered complementary approaches to health and healing and may be energy- or movement-based, biological or rooted in functional nutrition.
Clinical approaches used in the practice of holistic mental health care include:
- Nutritional and dietary changes, including the use of nutritional supplements
- Lifestyle changes
- Meditation and mind-body exercises such as yoga and tai chi
- Promoting health and healing through spirituality
- Physical activity
- Talk, art and massage therapy
- Reiki and other energy-based practices
As the holistic approach to mental health continues to show significant benefits for patients and families, an increasing number of mental health nurse practitioners embrace this model of care. By addressing all aspects of a person, including mind, body and spirit, nurse practitioners can help combat the stigma surrounding mental health while improving patients’ lives.