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Compassionate care: Psychiatric nurse practitioner discusses stigma around mental health care

By Staff | Sep 13, 2019

Shepherdstown resident Ron Grubb spoke about his experience as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, during the First Tuesday Speaker Series at Christ Reformed United Church of Christ on Sept. 3. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Ron Grubb hadn’t planned on spending his entire nursing career in the field of psychiatry, but when his psychiatric nursing test scores out-performed those of his classmates at West Virginia University, he began to consider it as a potential career specialization.

After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in nursing from WVU, Grubb attended Catholic University and became a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Grubb then became the psychiatric clinic specialist in the psychiatric emergency room at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, before coming to Shepherd University to teach paramedics and EMTs.

On Sept. 3, Grubb spoke about his psychiatric experience at Christ Reformed United Church of Christ’s First Tuesday Speaker Series about “Mental Health: Worries, Realities and Truths.”

“I can give you an overview of an area that is misunderstood by the general public, as well as many nurses and doctors, unfortunately,” Grubb said. “I’m going to talk about how to lower this negative stigma around mental health — if we’ve done that, we’ve done a great service.

“The stigma around mental health care is so negative, that most people don’t want to stand up and talk about their mental health issues,” Grubb said. “We have woefully short-changed mental health care, in terms of the money that is put into it. There aren’t enough psych beds or workers.”

According to Grubb, a therapeutic relationship must be developed to build trust between people with mental health issues and their care providers.

“A therapeutic relationship, according to the theory of Carl Rogers, is an unconditional, positive regard — you have this respect for them, but they can also count on you telling the truth,” Grubb said, before giving an example of this interaction. “That information can be shared in a positive ways, so ‘I don’t think you’re bad, I think you could have approached this topic in a more positive way.’

“If someone has a good therapeutic relationship, they’re predisposed to trust more in the next relationship,” Grubb said. “That’s true of psychiatric patients, or, for that matter, of any patients.”

As Grubb finished his speech, he said family members and friends should learn to recognize when a person who has previously tried to commit suicide is trying to prove they’re not suicidal, because they may be trying to avoid being prevented from committing suicide again. He also advised attendees on how to address hallucinations.

“We don’t get terribly upset if someone has delusions of grandeur, but we do get concerned when someone is hallucinating,” Grubb said, mentioning people experiencing auditory hallucinations should be immediately committed. “When people are hallucinating, they are receiving perceptions that aren’t based on reality. That becomes dangerous — if the person is so frightened, they might hurt someone who is trying to help them or jump out a window.”

While mental health illnesses make people uncomfortable, Grubb said people need to stop making fun of mental health care.

“You’ll hear highly educated people chuckle, saying ‘He’s in the loony bin.’ If someone else hears you, he may not be very inclined to go,” Grubb said. “You have to be careful what image you present when you talk about healthcare, that it comes across in a positive and helpful light.

“I have trouble keeping myself under control, when people say ‘You ought to know better,'” Grubb said. “Stop and think what it would be like to have a mental illness. They need care. It must be dreadful.”