With having to change our entire lives to fight against Covid-19, mental health has become a larger concern. Many who have been staying at home more than ever have found themselves fighting depression and other mental-health challenges. West Texas A&M University is now offering a new graduate-level certificate program designed to increase the number of qualified mental-health professionals in the region.

Current students may now enroll in a post-master’s graduate certificate program to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. The certification will allow family nurse practitioners and registered nurses with master’s of science in nursing degrees to assess, diagnose and treat individuals and families with psychiatric disorders using the full scope of therapeutic skills, including the prescription of medication and the administration of psychotherapy.

Dr. Holly Jeffreys, head of the WT Department of Nursing, said that adding the certification program will address a critical need in the Panhandle, which meets a key aspiration of the University’s generational plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

“Right now, there are less than 1,000 psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners in the entire state, and most of them are concentrated in large metropolitan areas such as Dallas-Fort Worth,” Jeffreys said. “Adding this to our curriculum will help us better provide mental health care in Texas’ rural and underserved areas.”

Six to eight students will be admitted each fall through a competitive selection process. The program will be offered online with one or two on-campus meetings each semester.