Pharmacists can help stem a mental health crisis — but they need more training

You probably live 2.5 kilometers from a community pharmacy and visit roughly one of them three weeks.

You don’t need an appointment. The waiting time is usually short. These factors make Pharmacists are easily accessible Healthcare professionals.

Pharmacists are regularly sought out for advice, including about mental health. In fact, pharmacists may be among first A health professional has been contacted about a health concern. They are also in regular contact With patients with psychological problems or crises.

Despite the fact that most pharmacists think it is part of their role Providing mental health helpthey may lacking confidence to me Respond, Lift, or Manage Mental health problems with patients. In our recent study, pharmacists reported no intervention 25% of the time When they think the patient has a problem or crisis.

Equipping pharmacists with early intervention skills can help address these challenges.



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The epidemic saw a deterioration in mental health

The Covid pandemic has seen anxiety and depression 25% increase globally, indicating a broader deterioration in mental health.

Poor mental health affects about 20% of Australia’s population every year and 44% of Australians over the course of their lives. in recent study Of the 11,000 people, 24% said their mental health had deteriorated within the previous six months.

Even more worrying is that about 60% of people have a mental health problem won’t ask for help. This means that people are more likely to remain undiagnosed and disconnected from support.

Pharmacist’s many hats

While dispensing and counseling are important activities for pharmacists, they also help patients with questions and advice about their health, including their mental health.

Generally, pharmacists in australia They have high levels of literacy related to mental health and Evidence-based treatments.

Despite this, pharmacists reported a trustless Which prevent them of raising mental health issues with patients. This is probably because only 29% of pharmacists in Australia have Mental health crisis training.

The lack of confidence in raising and addressing mental health issues means that patients are likely to remain undiagnosed, untreated, and unsupported.



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4 Key Elements of Mental Health First Aid

Many of us are familiar with first aid as the immediate aid given to an injured or ill person. But what if the issue is not physical but mental? Many people do not know what immediate help they can provide.

As with physical injury or illness, immediate, high-quality, timely assistance is critical.

There are a variety of nonprofit and commercial mental health first aid training programs available. A review of recent literature for programs for mental health professionals suggests this is possible Reduce stigma And the increase knowledge. They can also boost Confidence And the Intentions to help.

Across programs, there are four common components to providing high-quality mental health first aid.

1. Getting to know someone who may be experiencing a mental health problem or crisis

Recognizing a mental health problem or crisis involves noticing verbal, physical, emotional, and behavioral indicators. Because pharmacists interact with patients about every three weeks, they may be in a good position to notice changes.

They may express sadness, anger, frustration, despair, shame, or guilt. Patients may say, “There is no hope” or “I can’t go on like this.”

Physical indications include fatigue, sleep difficulties, insomnia, muscle tension, upset stomach, sweating, difficulty breathing, and changes in appetite or weight.

Emotional indicators reflect how a person is feeling and include significant mood changes, crying, agitation, anger, despair, or anxiety.

Symptoms clues For anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and suicidal ideation are available.

2. Approach and evaluate the person

Opening dialogue can be as simple as, “How are you? I noticed [symptoms] And I’m worried.”

Your role is not to clinically diagnose the patient; However, it is important to assess the patient’s risk and level of urgency. The risks and urgency will help to know if the person is in immediate danger or can use other non-urgent support services.

The acronym TED can guide early discussions in the following way:

tell me …

Explain how it affected you…

Describe what is happening…

3. Actively listen and communicate without judgment

Active listening It includes affirming that you hear and understand the other person. Ways to do this includeNodding, appropriate eye contact, and summarizing what was shared.

Communicating without judgment involves showing genuine interest in the other person and talking about their experience.

Open-ended questions usually use the “how” and “what” queries. You could say something like, “You’ve noticed some changes lately, what’s going on with you?” or “I see you fill a prescription for sleeping tablets. How are you sleeping?”

4. Refer the person to support

People with their mental health can benefit from sharing details with professionals, such as general practitioners, or family and friends – but they may need encouragement to get this support.

The recommended support regimen should match the level of urgency. Urgent services include a free 24-hour Lifeline Phone, chat and text messages the support. The Suicide call back service It is also a free 24/7 consulting service.

If in doubt or in an emergency, call 000.

Free, non-urgent online support is available from Head to healthThe Black Dog Institute And the beyond blue.



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Can training community pharmacists help?

Studies in AustraliaAnd the New ZealandAnd the Canada And the abroad All of this points to the pharmacists’ faith They need more training In first aid for mental health.

Search Nearly 70% of patients suggest that all pharmacists should have mental health first aid training. Patients report feeling more comfortable talking about mental illness with their pharmacist through this training.

Emerging evidence shows that mental health first aid training can increase Quality From the assistance provided by pharmacists.

in our area studywe found that Australian pharmacists with training in mental health first aid were more likely to intervene than untrained pharmacists.

While the overall quality of first aid provided by both trained and untrained mental health first aid pharmacists was high, there are some key differences. Trained pharmacists evaluated patients and encouraged other forms of support (such as friends and family) more. They also felt more confident discussing the risks of suicide.


If this article raises issues for you, or if you are concerned about someone you know, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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