Breaking the Stigma of Mental Health

Breaking the Stigma of Mental Health

The son of an immigrant family and the second of four kids; I was born in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Bolivia is located in the heart of South America. My father and mother decided to move to the United States seventeen years ago with the hope of giving our family a better life. I was fortunate enough to have grown up in a stable, loving, and close Hispanic family. We relocated to small town in South Jersey, where I attended school and acclimated to the American culture.


I learned a new language and quickly realized the American life was high paced, competitive, involved hard work, however; opportunities were endless.


Following high school, I attended Thomas_Jefferson_University graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I attended graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania graduating with my Masters of Science in Nursing. I spent a lot of time self-reflecting during my undergraduate career at Thomas Jefferson University.


Although I enjoyed what I was doing, I was not convinced a career in the medical field was my calling. That rapidly changed after a brief yet very eye opening psych-mental health clinical I had as a nursing student. Knowing I had a limited amount of time to engage in patient care, I approached my psychiatric clinical attempting to get to know patients rather their charts.


I’m now a 24 years old, recent graduate of the worlds #1 Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse practitioner program and looking to enroll in a PhD program focusing on the barriers that continue to exist in the treatment of older adults with schizophrenia. I’m very passionate about the importance of mental health care across the lifespan. I work as a Psychiatric Nurse practitioner at a community mental health clinic providing patient-centered evidence based care for clients across the lifespan. As a student NP provider I have been exposed to a variety of different psychiatric settings including inpatient & outpatient behavioral health, community mental health, and addiction rehab & detox centers. In addition, I’m a part-time clinical instructor teaching at The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. As a mental health advocate, I hope to help spark other students to embark on the life long journey to help end stigma associated with mental health conditions.


As a Psychiatric Mental Health NP, I’m considered an advanced practice nurse with prescriptive authority. I’m trained to assess, diagnose, and treat individuals and families with psychiatric disorders. What distinguishes a Psych NP from others is the extensive training we receive in psychotherapy along with medication management. In some states Psych NP’s often own private practices and corporations as well as consult with groups, communities, legislators, and corporations.


The stigma associated with mental health care continues to exist. Sometimes everything looks like a nail to a hammer, and being aware of a diagnosis can make us look for pathologies when we should just be looking for humanity. Three years ago I was exposed to the field of mental health through the eyes of a frightened nursing student. I sat, observed, and wondered how it was possible that we still treated our patients in psychiatric units with such different level of care. Why was it that we immediately attended to the needs of someone who would come into the hospital for a broken bone, heart attack, or even a standard routine check up, but we would “question” or even “frown upon” when it was someone presenting with depression, anxiety, or thoughts to hurt themselves?


I began noticing I was able to make a difference in someone’s life by simply listening, providing a helping hand, a shoulder to lean on, or a even prayer during a patient’s darkest times. This experience as brief and chaotic as it was at time helped me put many things in my own life in perspective. It was a time of growth and maturity. With the support of God, my family and friends, I found my calling. A life devoted to service. Service for those suffering of mental illness.

Nicolas Rojas

Nicolas Rojas, CRNP, PMHNP-BC

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