1. Bybel, Barbara-Ann DHA, MSN, NEA-BC, PMHNP-BC

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Every nurse can think of a time when he or she felt unprepared to handle the behavioral health needs of a patient, family member, or coworker. It can be incredibly frustrating to recognize a problem without having the resources to help. I am here to tell you that you can become the resource your patients need.


My name is Dr. Barbara-Ann Bybel, and I am the coordinator for the newest department in Nursing2019, Behavioral Health. As nurses, we know that we are an integral part of navigating challenging situations as part of the healthcare team. Equipped with the right information, we are uniquely poised to provide holistic care that addresses the essential components of overall health. This department aims to build a foundation for addressing the myriad issues related to behavioral health that nurses face daily.



Did you know that about 1 in 5 adults in the US-44.7 million people-experiences mental illness in a given year?1 Tragically, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34 and disproportionally affects our veterans.2 Simultaneously, the opioid crisis continues to overwhelm available resources. The CDC reports that the number of patients treated for overdoses in EDs increased by 35% between 2016 and 2017.3 This means that no matter where you practice, you will care for a person vulnerable to the dangers of an untreated behavioral health issue who needs an advocate. My goal is to help you become that advocate.


Topics of interest

In upcoming articles, I want to examine various common topics of interest to nurses from a behavioral health perspective. Here are a few examples:


* de-escalating dangerous or disruptive behavior


* treating substance use disorder


* monitoring for suicidality and mitigating ligature risks in hospital environments


* recognizing signs of nurse burnout and caregiver fatigue


* assessing for depression.



Having a better understanding of the underlying causes will improve your ability and confidence in handling behavioral health issues. Your ability to identify problems and intervene appropriately will directly impact outcomes for your patients, increase staff engagement and retention, and improve safety in the care environment. This department will also explore the latest developments and issues in psychiatric and mental health nursing practice, education, and research, and will present evidence-based information to help inform your practice. We invite our readers to join us as we explore this critical area of care.


My background

I have been a psychiatric nurse for 18 years, moving progressively from clinical nurse on inpatient psychiatry units as a new graduate to my current role as director of psychiatry services at University of North Carolina Healthcare in Chapel Hill, N.C. I have worked with patients of all diagnoses and age groups. In my current role, I have responsibilities for over 100 inpatient psychiatry beds, serving all ages and diagnoses, as well as outpatient clinics, a crisis and assessment center, and a residential detoxification unit. I am also an active advocate for mental health parity and reform, working with organizations such as the American Psychiatric Nurses Association and the North Carolina Healthcare Association. I am helping our healthcare system champion the way for integrated mental healthcare so the entire person is treated while receiving any type of healthcare. I find great joy in mentoring nurses to become future leaders.


Your opportunity

I want to hear from you. What topics in this column would be most beneficial to you and your nursing practice? Please let us know what you would like to see addressed in this department. Further, if you have interest in contributing to this department, we encourage manuscripts and submission inquiries from authors of all professional backgrounds and levels of experience, including first-time authors. Email with manuscript ideas or other inquiries. I look forward to working with you.




1. National Institute of Mental Health. Mental illness. 2017. [Context Link]


2. National Institute of Mental Health. Suicide. 2018. [Context Link]


3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Emergency department data show rapid increases in opioid overdoses. 2018. [Context Link]