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Peoples delivers 2022 Virginia Lee Memorial Conference keynote
Reba Peoples

Board-certified Psychiatrist, Functional Medicine Practitioner, & Founder of Imara Health and Wellness, Reba Peoples, M.D., was the keynote speaker for the 2022 Virginia Lee Franklin Memorial Conference. The in-person, one-day event was held on Thursday, April 21, at the Emory Nursing Learning Center (ENLC).

Peoples asked the audience to have a vision of the future as she discussed her lecture topic: Integrative Approaches to Mental Health: Current and Future Trends to Bridge the Gap between Neuroscience, Functional Medicine, and Clinical Practice. 

Peoples shared current trends, which showed:

  • 20% of U.S. adults are experiencing a mental illness
  • 4.8 of U.S. adults reported serious thoughts of suicide
  • 56% of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment
  • 60-75% of clinicians say symptoms of exhaustion, depression, sleep disorders, and/or PTSD

“The nation is in the midst of a mental health crisis,” stated Peoples. “We must recognize the opportunity for a greater course of action.”

Peoples said the first step toward change is context. “If we want to move forward, it’s critical that we first understand how we’ve arrived at this moment in our collective journeys,” she shared. “This looks like doing the often unpleasant and uncomfortable work of unmasking the dysfunctional aspects of our culture that shapes how we view ourselves and how we view the world around us.”

The second step is clarity. “We must engage in critical self-reflection. How does my cultural and social programming influence how I move through the world?”

Once you’re clear of your answers to the first two steps, Peoples says the third step; inspired action, comes into play. “We become conscious rather than unconscious and reactionary. When I became aware of these things, my life and practice began to shift. We must treat the entire person – not just their symptoms.”

The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing is doing its part to address mental health gaps. Pending approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the School of Nursing’s Post-BSN DNP and post-master’s certificate programs for Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners will start this fall. 

Peoples also presented an acronym, S.M.A.R.T., with mental health benefits in the meaning. 

Sleep – Getting sufficient sleep reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.

Movement – 20—40% of people with a healthy body mass index are metabolically unhealthy. Only 1 in 8 Americans are metabolically healthy.

Awareness: Being mindful

Recognition – Knowing who we are outside of the work that we do.

Tailor inputs – Surround yourself with people who are loving and affirming. People who speak life into you. 

Other conference speakers included Dr. Jennifer Stevens, Matt Cooper, Cammie Wolf Rice, and Nicholas Giordano.

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