By Hassan Riaz, Pharmacist, Horne Street Pharmacy
We are seeing alarming rates of mental health issues emerging within our communities. Young adults are self-harming, whilst the elderly maybe feeling the effects of social isolation. Mental illness isn’t something that is confined to a particular age group and can affect individuals across the age spectrum.
Early intervention of anxiety and depression
Around 15 million people in the UK have a long-term condition1. Long-term conditions or chronic illnesses are those that currently have no cure. Examples of long-term conditions include diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Long term conditions result in varying degrees of stress on patients, with many of these patients also likely to have a mental health problem, most probably anxiety or depression. Community pharmacists are perfectly positioned to see patients regularly, with most speaking to the pharmacist each month. Pharmacists are able to identify many health problems and provide the best advice and care for each patient. This individualised care means that pharmacists are able to pick-up and monitor early signs of anxiety, depression or other mental health illnesses, which in turn could result in early intervention, improvements in patient health and savings for the NHS.
Lending a sympathetic ear
Each week I receive regular phone-calls from a group of patients who call the pharmacy, simply wanting to talk about their mental health condition and ask for advice relating to their medication.
These patients’ problems are three-fold;
- they are physically unable to leave the confinement of their home due to health conditions,
- being house-bound has impacted their mental wellbeing, and
- they have very few places where they can seek confidential yet professional advice.
The community pharmacy team has responded by offering these patients a sympathetic ear. Patients with severe and prolonged mental health illness are at risk of dying on average 15 to 20 years earlier than other people. Kind words of reassurance, a smile, and simply listening can go a long way for some people.
Our pharmacies also have accreditation to be Healthy Living Pharmacies with dedicated Health Champions. Our trained Health Champions help identify local areas for health improvement and develop ways to tackle them. In the past year, we ran campaigns with local mental health charities and held displays with information, support and guidance on mental health with the theme #ItsOKToTalk. They proved hugely successful and led to many discussions around mental health and support that are available locally, proving pharmacies as a great source for signposting. All staff working at our Hub Pharmacies are Dementia Friends, enabling them to help patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s in the best way possible.
Prescribing and monitoring of antidepressants
Many of the medicines used to treat mental health problems are associated with low adherence amongst patients, especially due to their side effect profiles. Non-adherence can include:
- not requesting medication on time,
- adjusting dosing regimens, or
- stopping the medication completely.
As experts in medicines and their safe administration, our Hub pharmacists can ensure that patients get the best outcome from their medicines, reduce adverse interactions, side effects, and any unplanned hospital admissions. Medicines Use Reviews (MURs) help patients receive structured adherence-centred reviews, ensuring that they are aware of the medication they are taking, offer them with healthy living advice, and support on how to minimise any side effects. Studies show that up to 50% of patients stop taking their antidepressants prematurely3. MURs are the ideal consultation tools that could help tackle this issue of adherence as well as support and guidance when a patient initiates treatment on antidepressants
Provision of enhanced offerings
The pharmacy where I work, Horne Street Pharmacy, was approached by Healthy Minds Calderdale, the Roshani Project and the Green Dome Trust, three local groups working within the BME community. Every Tuesday we offer a free mental health drop-in session. Trained mental health workers are available to offer their support, with signposting to specialist services where needed.
Whatever problem you may be going through, whether big or small, our pharmacy teams at The Hub are here to offer expert support and guidance. Together we can help remove the stigma that surrounds mental health.