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Although the problem of depression and other related disorders in adolescents (which was largely neglected only half a century ago) is now addressed by a lot of scholars, not enough is done to prevent the condition in schools. The significance of the issue to nursing is supported by the fact that depression may not only deteriorate the patients’ quality of life but also lead to the increase in associated morbidity and mortality rates (Parker, 2013).
One of the key reasons this policy issue is significant is that nothing particular was done by policymakers to improve the situation. There are two acts that control suicide prevention (the Youth Suicide Prevention Act of 1987 and public Health Service Act of 1990); however, there are no depression prevention guidelines. None of the proposed programs have been tested in a randomized trial, which means that none of them are evidence-based (Parker, 2013). As a result, there is no regulation obliging educational institutions to perform screenings that would make it possible to detect the problem at an early stage.
The legislator to be contacted is Janice Kerekes, Clay County Board Member Representative, District 1. In this paper, key communication strategies and empirical evidence for effective communication, as well as the importance of the visit to nursing, will be discussed.
Key Communication Strategies
It is impossible to influence local policymakers without properly developing the strategy to approach them. In many cases, a personal visit is insufficient. I believe that before this, you have to prepare the legislator enough for him/her to listen to your arguments. For this purpose, emails, faxes, calls, and even social networks can be used as the combination of several approaches gives the best results (Mason, Leavitt, & Chaffee, 2013).
In order to present the policy issue, I am going to address Janice Kerekes, Clay County Board Member Representative, District 1. Since I know that she has a lot of district problems to resolve and cannot devote much time to each proposed policy, I will first write an email. There, I will briefly describe the problem providing statistics. Currently, more than 30% of teenagers suffering from the condition do not receive treatment being not recognized due to the absence of obligatory screening. The gravity of their state varies from sadness to bipolar disorder, which may lead to antisocial behavior, substance abuse, hospitalization, psychosocial impairments, and suicide. (Allison, Nativio, Mitchell, Ren, & Yuhasz, 2014).
This way, I want the necessity to introduce mandatory annual screenings in schools to become evident. It is essential to be specific, precise, and stick to the point. I will provide recommendations and the follow-up plan. The letter will propose to issue a new regulation for schools, obliging them to introduce a depression screening program to identify those who are at elevated risk, assess them via computer tests and provide assistance to those whose results raise concerns.
When I am sure that my email was read, I will call to the office of the senator and schedule an appointment during her office hours. This way, I will be able to expand upon each issue briefly summarized in the letter.
Empirical Evidence of Effective Communication
As it has already been mentioned, personal communication with legislators is highly effective if it is combined with other modes. Since the time of the visit is limited, one must ensure that maximum information has already been received and processed before the meeting. The following benefits of the chosen strategy support its effectiveness (De Marchi, Lucertini, & Tsoukiàs, 2016):
- written communication allows to be concise and clear;
- the text of the email can be properly prepared and edited before sending;
- no personal distracting factors get involved in communication;
- one does not have to spend hours of calling to get through;
- the policymaker has time to study the arguments provided;
- the key points will be documented to allude to them during a personal visit;
- it is much easier to perceive and estimate statistical data in the written form;
- when the legislator has the text, he/she will concentrate on the pragmatic aspect of the issue during the presentation (instead of having to read the slides).
Visit Importance to Nursing
There are several perspectives, from which the importance of the visit can be assessed. First and foremost, if communication with the senator is successful, it will allow resolving the problem of depression prevention among teenagers since regular screenings will detect the condition in due time. Second, nurses will be able to avoid long-term negative consequences of the condition (including poor state of health, impeded socialization, low performance indicators in future work, bad family relations, etc.) (Prochaska, Le, Baillargeon, & Temple, 2016). In the long run, it means that nurses will not have to deal with the population suffering from a whole range of diseases. Third, a successful visit will increase the influence of nurses on policymaking as well as their prestige and decision-making power.
The problem of depression detection and prevention is nationwide. The solution of it will determine how the young generation will be able to ensure further development of a healthy society. The role and influence of nurses in policymaking has increased dramatically during the recent years. As a nurse, I can and must address legislators to attract their attention to the problem. Using a sequence of moves, I will demonstrate my awareness of the issue, persistence, and target-orientation.
Allison, V. L., Nativio, D. G., Mitchell, A. M., Ren, D., & Yuhasz, J. (2014). Identifying symptoms of depression and anxiety in students in the school setting. The Journal of School Nursing, 30(3), 165-172.
De Marchi, G., Lucertini, G., & Tsoukiàs, A. (2016). From evidence-based policy making to policy analytics. Annals of Operations Research, 236(1), 15-38.
Mason, D. J., Leavitt, J. K., & Chaffee, M. W. (2013). Policy and politics in nursing and healthcare: Revised reprint. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier Health Sciences.
Parker, G. (2013). Teenage depression: Some navigational points for parents and professionals. World Psychiatry, 12(3), 272-274.
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Prochaska, J. D., Le, V. D., Baillargeon, J., & Temple, J. R. (2016). Utilization of professional mental health services related to population-level screening for anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder among public high school students. Community Mental Health Journal, 52(6), 691-700.