Mental Health Care, Policy, and COVID-19: The Renewed Role for Psychiatric and Addiction Nursing

Research Paper Title

Mental Health Care, Policy, and COVID-19: The Renewed Role for Psychiatric and Addiction Nursing.


Kovner (2020) has importantly highlighted the role that health care workers play in the 21st century to fight pandemics, such as the recent COVID-19 outbreak, in Canada and around the world. The heroic actions, determination, selflessness, and compassion of nurses and many health care providers worldwide have become the highlighted story of COVID-19 pandemic (Kovner, 2020). This is particularly significant, as 2020 has been called the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife by the World Health Organization and the International Council of Nurses to celebrate the birth of renowned nurse Florence Nightingale on her 200th anniversary. While this year has already signified the critical position of nurses in primary care, policy, and clinical practice, the role of psychiatric nurses and their contributions to primary care have often been overlooked by society, government policy makers, and many academics.

This is particularly true, as most provinces/states do not have dedicated bachelors’ degrees in psychiatric nursing, except for British Columbia (BC), Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba in Canada. Additionally, BC remains the only province/State in North America that has a fellowship program in Addiction nursing (Jozaghi & Dadakhah-Chimeh, 2018). Momentously, it was also the first province/state in North America to enact a provincial ministry dedicated to mental health and addiction (BC Gov News, 2017). This is remarkably significant in the current pandemic as many North American are asked to work from home, have been laid off, ordered to self-isolate, or practice social distancing. The cumulative effects of financial strain and self-isolation have already been reflected in a higher frequency of police calls for mental health and domestic assault cases in many provinces, territories, and states (Hong, 2020; Seebruch, 2020). The latest research also highlights a projected increase in suicide cases in North America linked to the COVID-19 pandemic (McIntyre & Lee, 2020). Self-isolation measures and the ongoing opioid crisis have also caused sharp increases in mortalities linked to synthetic opioids to their highest levels (Johnston, 2020). Finally, some researchers have warned about the potential misuse of alcohol during the current pandemic (Clay & Parker, 2020).

Therefore, the rise in mental health and domestic abuse calls, potential suicides, overdose deaths, and alcohol abuse serves as a reminder that COVID-19 is not our only health crisis. We must tackle and plan for the potential tsunami of mental health and addiction cases. While the Federal government in Canada has promised investment to improve long-term care, Kovner (2020) rightly pointed out that COVID-19 pandemic is about politics and policy and we similarly urge the governments and municipalities to invest to improve public health. More importantly, dedicated mental health care and training in psychiatric and addiction nursing is long overdue. We also recommend that cities, states, and federal housing agencies to increase funding for dedicated mental health and harm reduction programs during the current pandemic for people who have mental health or substance use disorders.


Dadakhah-Chimeh, Z. & Jozaghi, E. (2020) Mental Health Care, Policy, and COVID-19: The Renewed Role for Psychiatric and Addiction Nursing. Policy, Politics& Nursing Practice. doi: 10.1177/1527154420957305. Online ahead of print.

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