The Pharmacist’s Role in Mental Health

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.


Contributed by:

Leila Fleming, Parliamentarian, Class of 2019

Preparing to Practice in an Interprofessional Team

In 2010, the World Health Organization published, “Framework for Action on Interprofessional Education & Collaborative Practice.”  This document lists several key messages.  Among them are the following:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners recognize interprofessional collaboration in education and practice as an innovative strategy that will play an important role in mitigating the global health workforce crisis.
  • A collaborative practice-ready health worker is someone who has learned how to work in an interprofessional team and is competent to do so.

The University of Charleston has received these key messages loud and clear.  Current Physician’s Assistant and Pharmacy students are practicing as members of an interprofessional team.

The aging of the American population steadily increases the need for physicians.  The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that by 2030 the United States will be short 100,000 physicians.  These numbers can seem overwhelming.  Interprofessional teamwork is one strategy to relieve this shortage.  Delegation of tasks can decrease the need for physicians by increasing the role of other team members.  Both physician’s assistants and pharmacists, in different ways, take on parts of a physician’s workload.  Pharmacists in ambulatory care settings often manage medication adjustments in chronic disease states like diabetes.  This practice model not only mitigates the provider shortage but also leads to better patient outcomes.

Prior to beginning their final year of schooling at University of Charleston, PA and pharmacy students participate in an Interprofessional experience.  The course involves actors as “patients.”  Students are expected to interact with the patient, diagnose, develop a plan for treatment, and educate the patient.  The process teaches both disciplines to communicate with other healthcare professionals and patients.

Beyond the clinical lessons, the experience often results in newfound respect for the other profession.  Building relationships and learning to collaborate are “soft skills” that young professionals will need in the work force.  University of Charleston students will enter the work force prepared to address healthcare shortages and improve patient outcomes through collaboration within an interprofessional team.





Framework For Action On Interprofessional Education & Collaborative Practice. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO Press; 2010. Accessed November 29, 2017.

Mann S. New Research Shows Shortage of More than 100,000 Doctors by 2030. Newsaamcorg. 2017. Available at: Accessed November 30, 2017.


Contributed by: Leila Fleming, Pharmacy Fellow, Class of 2019