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Two nursing students from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program organized and hosted a student-run conference that drew nearly 200 students and community members to discuss incorporating mental health awareness into health care.

Paige Martin and Jessie Axsom came up with the idea for the conference after realizing that harm reduction and trauma-informed care were almost never discussed in their nursing school curriculum. “Harm reduction” refers to the practice of medical professionals accepting that patients may engage in risky behaviors, working to meet patients where they are rather than judging them. “Trauma-informed care” means that health care providers assume that a patient has experienced some type of trauma and act accordingly.

Their conference, titled “Reimagining Mental Health,” featured speakers from across Philadelphia and Penn communities to discuss harm reductionist and trauma-informed approaches to health care. The duo hoped their conference would help increase awareness among health system workers and community members about these issues. They also hoped to provide attendees with tangible strategies to provide these methods in their everyday lives and future careers.

Axsom tells, “Trauma-informed care was actually identified as a critical need of the West Philadelphia community, and Philadelphia has been forced to become a leader in harm reduction in their response to the opioid crisis, but both of these topics have been completely left out of our nursing education in any meaningful way. Our frustration and our anger drove us to organize an event that would at least start to address those needs.”

To learn more about the Reimagining Mental Health student-run conference hosted at Penn Nursing, visit here.

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