Mental health in pharmacy ‘makes sense.’

Shane Rattenbury presents Elise Apolloni with her ACT Mental Health Award.
Shane Rattenbury presents Elise Apolloni with her ACT Mental Health Award.

Canberra pharmacist Elise Apolloni has been named in the ACT’s Mental Health Awards for her work in creating a mentally healthier community and workplace

Ms Apolloni, who has in the recent past been the recipient of a string of awards including the 2017 National Telstra Young Business Woman’s Award, 2017 PSA Young Pharmacist of the Year and the award for Professional Innovation in the Guild’s Pharmacy of the Year competition, was presented with the latest accolade by ACT Minister for Health Shane Rattenbury.

After being nominated by the ACT Guild’s Margaret Beerworth, Ms Apolloni, pharmacist and managing partner at the Capital Chemist Wanniassa, won the Mentally Healthy Communities and Workplaces Individual Award.

“I’ve been doing a lot of mental health first aid training since nearly four years ago, and I’ve trained nearly 200 pharmacists and pharmacy assistants,” Ms Apolloni told the AJP.

“The ACT branch recently pursued funding from the local PHN to help subsidise my doing that, and so far we’ve trained 35 pharmacists and pharmacy assistants in that, though there were many more before – and we’re doing more classes next year.”

Ms Apolloni praised the recent NSW decision, announced at the Guild NSW Branch Parliamentary Dinner in Sydney, to invest $1 million to train regional pharmacists to help patients with mental health issues.

“Everyone’s starting to get it: people go to their pharmacist first. We’re the most accessible health professional,” she said.

“And they want us to be able to support and triage people in the most effective ways. We have people who are unwell; we know when there’s a change in them and what they’re feeling.”

She encouraged all pharmacists and pharmacy assistants to learn more about mental health, including mental health first aid.

“It’s just like a regular first aid course: you get tips and tricks on how to deal, as a first responder, in interesting situations that may arise.

“It helps you deal with a person who’s having a panic attack, or a change in their mood, maybe help a person who is having thoughts of suicide – some of these things we deal with day-to-day as pharmacists, others we may see only a few times in our careers, but if we have the training and confidence we can hopefully make recommendations so that they have the easiest journey towards recovery.”

Ms Apolloni says that in her pharmacy, she uses her mental health first aid training more often than she uses her first aid training.

“There’s training available – contact your local Guild or PSA to see what’s on offer. It’s a really worthwhile qualification for people who are serious in helping people with mental health issues. There’s always something to learn, and we can always be better.”

Regarding the award, Ms Apolloni told the AJP that it was “actually really lovely and unexpected” to win, and praised other winners and those who were nominated.

“There’s a lot of great work going on in the ACT, and it was nice to hear about what other people are doing.

“There’s a lot of charities and government bodies getting involved – ANU won an award.”

The Centre for Mental Health Research at The Australian National University won the Research, Evaluation and Quality Improvement Award.

“They’ve been doing mental health screening in pharmacies, including our pharmacy,” she said.

“So there’s a nice connection between everything that’s going on, and they’re starting to integrate community pharmacy because it makes sense.”

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