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April 30, 2024

Faculty voice: Storytelling can drive meaningful change around mental health

Dawn Goldstein is the program director for the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program and an assistant professor in the Michigan State University College of Nursing. She is also the Michigan chapter president of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association. Goldstein wrote a screenplay with help from the Mighty Pen Project, an initiative aimed at supporting the mental health and well-being of military personnel and veterans through creative writing.

Dawn Goldstein
Dawn Goldstein

Over the years, I have held significant leadership and clinical roles within the United States Army Reserves, specifically within the Army Nurse Corps. From company commander of a U.S. Army hospital to an executive officer for a medical supply unit, I have held a variety of positions that underscore my commitment to mental health care and leadership in military settings.

This experience, coupled with more than 30 years of experience as a registered nurse, more than an decade as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and a faculty position at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, led me back to Michigan to initiate the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program at MSU.

Within the College of Nursing, my role as a program director enables me to spearhead advancements in mental health care by developing and delivering education, and facilitating clinical placements, research and policy advocacy. 

I believe there is immense potential for storytelling to initiate important conversations and drive meaningful change. Through the Mighty Pen Project, I’ve witnessed firsthand the therapeutic impact of storytelling on individuals connected to the military.

In fact, my screenplay, “Down Range,” came out of my time working with the Mighty Pen Project. It focuses on my military experience of providing care while also struggling with my own personal issues. Seeing it performed was a surreal and immensely gratifying experience. It reinforced the power of storytelling as a tool for fostering empathy, understanding and healing, particularly in the context of mental health themes.

Writing this screenplay has been a deeply personal and transformative way to extend my impact as a nurse beyond the traditional clinical setting. It allowed me to express the nuanced realities of mental health challenges faced by veterans, a topic close to my heart. By translating complex experiences into a narrative format, I aimed not only to educate and raise awareness, but also to advocate for the needs of veterans.

This screenplay also served as a reflective practice, helping me to process my own experiences and understandings of mental health in the military context.

Highlighting mental health within the military community is crucial due to the unique challenges and traumas often faced by service members and veterans. Addressing mental health concerns not only enhances individual well-being but also strengthens military readiness and resilience. By raising awareness and providing support, we can mitigate the stigma surrounding mental health issues and ensure that those who have served receive the care and assistance they deserve. 

Continued advocacy is vital in this endeavor. It is about pushing for policies that not only increase resources for mental health services but also ensure these services are seamlessly integrated with other health care provisions. Such advocacy efforts aim to ensure that mental health remains a priority across all levels of health care planning and delivery, reflecting its importance in achieving overall health and well-being.

Through my roles in education, research and advocacy, I am committed to advancing a health care model that embraces comprehensive and integrated services that increase access to all those living in Michigan, specifically the underserved and vulnerable populations.

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