Pharmacists Must Play Larger Role in Assessing Mental Illness

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Today is October 10th and it is World Mental Health Day. It is an annual occurrence that recognizes people who suffer from mental-health issues and seeks to remind citizens all over the world about the importance of breaking down the stigma around mental health in order to avoid labelling people who may be suffering from mental illness.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, 60 per cent of Canadians suffering from mental-health issues do not seek help because of the stigma associated with having a mental health problem.

Pharmacy professionals play a very key role in breaking down barriers and removing the stigma associated with mental health.

Pharmacists are on the frontlines and are best equipped to identify risk factors and behaviour of mental illnesses by referring patients to seek medical attention when warranted.

In addition, it is a well-known fact that mental health issues like depression and anxiety often exist alongside other comorbid conditions such as diabetes and cancer.

In fact, the Canadian Diabetes Association estimates that 30 per cent of patients suffering from diabetes have symptoms of depression. Pharmacists are crucial in identifying red flags that arise in their consultations with patients and serve an important role in opening the discussion around mental illness.

But, because pharmacists are so busy meeting quotas, in typically understaffed working conditions, they do not seek to assess a patient’s entire health profile and may ignore the signs and symptoms of potential mental illness.

If pharmacy professionals want to have a greater impact on identifying, assessing, and managing mental health conditions, then pharmacies need to do a better job promoting mental health awareness and opening that conversation with patients and clients who may feel embarrassed.

Increasing access for patients can go a long way to breaking down stereotypes over fears of being judged as inadequate.

Let’s spend this month of October to become aware of our own mental health status, as well as those of our friends, family and most importantly patients that we serve within our pharmacies. Spending a few extra minutes can make a world of difference for those suffering from a mental illness.