Debra Delaney (MSN, FNP-BC), primary care nurse practitioner at ChristianaCare’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute, says there are still barriers to mental health care, both in the medical world and in the outside world . She added that the more it was talked about, the more it was accepted.
Why is it important to address mental health barriers as highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and can you talk about how stress and mental health overlap with oncology treatments?
In some ways there are still barriers. I look to the world, the medical world and the outside world, but there is a stigma attached to it, even though I speak more than ever before. Even patients who come to me and tell me they’re crying intermittently say, “Well, I guess that’s one of the signs of depression.” And talk about supportive care, journaling. We talk about communicating and supporting each other with friends and family. And when I bring up the topic of drugs, the patient immediately shuts me up and says, “I don’t want to take drugs.” And I’m fine with that. That’s good. What I’m trying to say is, “Crying every day is interfering with your daily activities, so we need to talk about this and it shouldn’t happen.
The stigma is still there and we’re trying to work through it.It’s slow and patients don’t like taking medicine in the first place. [say], “I’m going to control my blood pressure with exercise and weight loss.” That is wonderful. I support it 100%. and support patients who first want supportive care. Counseling is also beneficial for mentally distressed patients.
In the world of oncology, an oncology diagnosis is a very heavy and heavy diagnosis. Right off the bat, I think people go into really dark territory when someone says, “This looks like cancer.” It addresses mental health issues that may already exist and brings them to the forefront. Once again, I will explain the mechanism of supportive care. I can refer them to psycho-oncology, refer them to outside counseling if they need cognitive behavioral therapy, and discuss medications when they are ready.