by Marilyn Sherrill
RN, MBA, CNOR, CPHQ, Knowledge Transfer Director


Approximately one in five adults in the U.S.—43.8 million or 18.5 percent—experiences mental illness in a given year. When I was almost 40 years old, I discovered that I was one of those five individuals. The problems began when I was only five years old and continued through my 30s, which is when I “bottomed out.” I finally reached out for help and began treatment with medication. After three years of finding the right medication and adjusting to the right dosage, I could actually say I felt “normal” for the first time in my life. Along with my own personal struggles with mental illness, I witnessed its impact on patients I cared for as a nurse. Seeing firsthand the effects of mental disorders on both myself and patients alike, I realize that more needs to be done to address mental health problems. After all, mental illness is not just about someone else, it could impact you or a loved one.

We are all affected

Do you or someone you know suffer from a mental health disorder? Chances are you answered yes to this question. Just as easily, you could have answered the same, to the question: do you or someone you know suffer from a hypertensive disorder? Mental health disorders are just that! They are disorders or illnesses, the same as hypertension, diabetes or any other medical condition treated by a licensed provider. Hereditary or other contributing factors can cause any mental or physical disorder. Regardless of the cause, these are real illnesses that real people, just like you and me, live with every day.

Our efforts

Here at Vizient, we are doing our part to confront mental illness. Recently we completed a project, “Defining the Scope of Emergency Department Care; Appropriating Care for the Behavioral Health Patient,” as part of our Performance Improvement Collaboratives Program. The key takeaways that emerged from the collaborative work included expediting treatment to reduce behavioral health patient holds in the emergency department, identifying patients at risk for suicide or other severe mental health disorders and staffing the emergency department with behavioral health providers.

The efforts of the collaborative participants resulted in the following improvements:

  • 69% of the participants reduced their ED revisit rates for behavioral health patients
  • Nine organizations went from not screening their behavioral health patients for depression to screening 100% of those patients
  • 59% of the participants realized a reduction in the left without being seen (LWBS) rate

Vizient also has plans in 2019 for a two-part collaborative on the Management of Acute and Chronic Behavioral Health Issues.

Raising awareness

Along with Vizient, the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) website offers aids, such as a Resource Toolkit and other Awareness Resources, to help individuals and organizations broaden the national conversation on mental illness. During the week of Oct. 7-13, the dialogue on mental illness will be elevated as part of Mental Illness Awareness Week. This event is a great opportunity to reach out to those you know who may be affected by mental illness. Together as health care providers, communities, families and friends we can work to improve access to treatment for those who are suffering and assist them to get the right treatment, at the right place, and in the right time in their lives.

If you would like to continue this very important discussion, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me at To learn more about Vizient Performance Improvement collaboratives, email

About the author. Marilyn Sherrill is a knowledge transfer director on the Vizient knowledge transfer team and works with the Performance Improvement (PI) Collaboratives Program. She provides research on various clinical topics to support the case for change, while developing the resources to share the work performed by members who participate in the various PI collaborative projects. Sherrill previously served as a collaborative advisor for the PI Collaboratives Program. Before this, Sherrill was a senior consultant on the Vizient advisory services team.

Published: September 28, 2018