Mental health consumers feeling “disempowered”

A perceived lack of medicines information from pharmacists is leaving mental health consumers feeling uninformed

Following our popular story delving into 13 reasons why pharmacists should care about mental health, here is some more detailed information on just what kind of mental health support consumers are looking for.

Researchers from Griffith University in Queensland recently conducted interview and focus groups with adult mental health consumers and carers across three Australian states, representing metropolitan, rural and remote settings.

Participants generally felt they were not getting enough information from community pharmacy regarding relevant medicine information for their mental health management.

Here is a selection of the feedback interviewers received:

Need for time allocated for individualised counselling: “Even with signing forms, especially because I’ve got really shaky hands, sometimes they [staff] just seem a bit rushed. They could be a bit more patient when you’re reading through the stuff. Like when they rush through everything, it’s too fast for my brain.”

Need to explain side effects: “I think it should be a pharmaceutical responsibility to talk to the patient about the side effects of the medication that they are handing over… There can be so many lists of side effects, so actually having those explained to you and saying, ‘well, this is a very rare side effect, or this is a minor side effect’.”

Should not assume the prescriber explained: “Getting medication from your pharmacist that says ‘take as directed by the doctor’, when you’ve been so unwell you can’t tell your head from your toe let alone remember what the doctor’s told you to take.. .”

Should not be patronising: “… staff not to have patronising, condescending attitudes or to speak louder or slower than normal.”

Source: Fejzic et al. 2017, Int Journ Pharm Prac

Participants called for greater collaboration and communication between GPs and pharmacists, so that pharmacists could help manage polypharmacy, adverse effects and drug interactions.

They also said they wanted to receive CMI leaflets, especially when commencing a new treatment.

However some consumers were unaware CMI leaflets existed at all.

Altogether there is a clear need to help mental health consumers become better informed.

“Australian community pharmacists should provide individualised, accurate and timely mental health information, encompassing a variety of treatments, enabling the consumer to make informed choices,” say the researchers.

“It is imperative that pharmacists develop guidelines, practice standards and processes to empower pharmacy staff to assist mental health consumers.

“Provision of patient-centred care implies being respectful of and responsive to individual preferences, needs and values, and ensuring that health consumer values guide clinical decisions.”

PSA advocates for pharmacists as partners in mental health care, helping to provide medication advice and support adherence.

In its mental health framework, the PSA calls for pharmacist involvement that mirrors the consumer needs stated above.

“Pharmacists are frequently consulted for advice on psychotropic medications … [which] are frequently implicated as a cause of adverse drug events or drug-related problems,” says the PSA.

They also play a “very important role” in supporting medication adherence in mental illness, it says.

“Pharmacists can help the consumer build knowledge, skills and understanding to use medicines effectively and safely.

“[They] have extensive knowledge of safe and effective use of psychotropic medicines and can assist consumers and prescribers in monitoring any side effects, drug interactions and contraindications and help to minimise the impacts of these.”

PSA points out the need for “lifelong learning” when it comes to pharmacists growing in their skills and understanding of mental health care.

The above research was published in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice.

How do you help mental health consumers in your pharmacy?

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