Let pharmacists provide more support

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One stakeholder is urging decision-makers to make use of pharmacists when it comes to helping Australians manage their mental health

One in five Australians are affected by mental illness annually, with many more impacted by the recent bushfire crisis and current COVID-19 pandemic.

This World Mental Health Day, Saturday 10 October is encouraging everyone to make a promise to “Look after your mental health, Australia.”

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia says it is taking stock to recognise the important relationship between a person affected by mental illness, their pharmacist and health care team.

Acting PSA President Michelle Lynch acknowledged the Government’s $5.7 billion investment into mental health during this week’s budget, which paves the way for pharmacists to play a greater role in the delivery of mental health care in Australia.

“A majority of Australians visit their pharmacist around 14 times a year and as trusted and accessible health professionals pharmacists often come in contact with patients suffering mental ill-health,” she said.

“Enabling pharmacists to recognise potential signs and symptoms of mental ill-health as well as support patients and refer on to GPs or emergency care, has the potential to not only improve outcomes, but potentially save lives.”

In response to the Productivity Commission’s Draft Report on Mental Health PSA said engaging pharmacists in the delivery of mental health care in Australia will lead to earlier intervention, improved treatment outcomes and a reduction in medication harms.

PSA made five key recommendations to the Productivity Commission which included developing and implementing regular reviews for people with mental ill-health, incorporating pharmacogenomic testing, integrating pharmacists in suicide prevention strategies and supporting pharmacists on the front lines who come in contact with people with mental ill-health.

Ms Lynch said there was an opportunity to better use the skills of pharmacists to improve the use of medicines for mental ill health by integrating pharmacists into multidisciplinary mental healthcare teams as well as support early detection and intervention for a patient in mental health crisis

“Recently PSA provided government funded mental health first aid training to pharmacists and pharmacy support staff in bushfire-affected regions, to support communities affected by the 2019-20 bushfires, with pharmacists often the first port of call for many people suffering mental ill-health,” she said.

“Pharmacists have been extremely grateful for the opportunity to receive this funded training, and the positive feedback indicates there is a clear need to upskill pharmacists as mental health problems increase in prevalence, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The final report was handed to the Australian Government on 30 June 2020 and is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

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