Parenting: UL Lafayette addressing mental health issues with new concentration

Posted at 3:30 AM, Mar 29, 2022

Addie Snyder said she always wanted to be a nurse practitioner. It was not until she had a semester in psych that she knew the route she would take.

"I got to see that there is this whole other side that people don't think about because of the stigma of mental illness that people don't want to talk about," Synder said. "I just saw that treating the whole person was the best road for health."

Synder said there was something about meeting someone in that vulnerable place that spoke to her; something many do not get a chance to do.

"It's normal to talk about this as much as our blood pressure and sugar," Synder said. "I think normalizing it has helped a lot and they leave feeling that a lot of people deal with this and it's okay. We can get through it, and we can talk about it and figure out ways that it can be better. I feel like they trust me in their growth in that and it's been so rewarding."

Snyder, part of the 2013 graduating class with a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Concentration at UL Lafayette, she was one of the last.

But now, nine years later, the university is bringing the concentration back--seeing a need for help in navigating mental health.

"There is a shortage of mental health providers in the community, especially in the rural areas," Abby McNeil, assistance professor of the Psych Mental Health program. "We really have to provide training and education for providers to get them in the field."

McNeil said there has always been a shortage of mental health providers, but Covid really helped to magnify the need.

"I know a lot of mental health providers have long waiting lists, months and months to get into a facility," McNeil said. "As we know, one in five Americans have a mental health disorder or substance abuse disorder. That tells you the amount of people who need help. If we can get Psych Mental Health Nurse Practitioners into the field, then we can increase their access to mental health care. Especially, in the rural under-served areas. That is our primary goal with this program."

As a Family Nurse and Psych Nurse Practitioner, McNeil said it is common to see someone for a general concern and then realize they need assistance, mentally. Without the knowledge on how to handle that situation the patient may not get the help they need.

"Someone will have a physical illness and mental illness," McNeil said. "It's important that we screen those patients for depression and anxiety so we can get them they help that they need, quickly."

Licensed registered nurses can now apply to the MSN – Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner concentration, as well as Family Nurse Practitioner and Nursing Education concentrations, for Fall 2022 admission.