Mental health issues can present unique challenges for both healthcare professionals and patients. Disorders like depression, bipolar and schizophrenia are primarily treated with medications. This makes pharmacists a crucial part of optimal patient care. There are multiple drugs within many classes of medication to choose from to treat each of these disease states. Pharmacists can make recommendations based on expertise on the nuances of mental health medications side effect profiles. As medication experts, pharmacists can ensure that patients are taking the best medications for their disease states.
Beyond recommending medicines, pharmacists can help end the stigma surrounding mental health in our communities. Often, patients may be embarrassed to discuss mental health with anyone. Pharmacy staff may perceive patients with mental health disorders negatively. Pharmacists can lead by example in they way they address mental health. A high level of professionalism with non-judgmental communication in the community setting can help decrease stigma. Education about mental health disorders for pharmacy professionals can also be helpful.
Mental health medications can be some of the worst offenders for adverse effects. Pharmacists are often on the “front lines” in the reporting of side effects. They can give patients realistic expectations about their medications. Knowing how long a medicine will take to become effective is vital information for patients. Counseling on what to look out for and when to call their prescriber can truly make a difference with patients struggling to find effective therapy.
Finally, duplicate therapy can be all too common in this patient population. Often patients see a psychiatrist as well as a primary care provider and may receive mental health prescriptions from both. Proper medication reviews can prevent duplicate therapies leading to adverse events like serotonin syndrome. Pharmacists are ideally positioned to affect positive change in the management of mental health disorders.
Rubio-Valera M, Chen T, O’Reilly C. New Roles for Pharmacists in Community Mental Health Care: A Narrative Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2014;11(10):10967-10990. doi:10.3390/ijerph111010967.
Leila Fleming, Parliamentarian, Class of 2019