The role of pharmacists in mental health care


Monday, 04 December, 2023


The role of pharmacists in mental health care

Pharmacists can play a greater role in helping patients manage their mental health through the quality use of medicines, suggests a new report from the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA).

The sixth edition of PSA’s flagship Medicine Safety series, Medicine Safety: Mental Health Care report highlights the role of pharmacists in improving support for Australians using medicines to treat mental health conditions.

PSA National President Dr Fei Sim FPS said, “Wherever medicines are used there is a risk of medicine misadventure, which is exactly what this report has found.

“We know that the prevalence of mental ill health is on the rise, and more people are using medicines to manage a mental health condition.

“Too often we hear of people stopping treatment altogether because of the effects of these medicines, because they make them unwell. This is where we believe there is significant opportunity for investment in pharmacist services to help support the safe and effective use of medicines.

“People using medicines in their mental health care need better access to the expertise of pharmacists at all stages of management — in hospitals, in community pharmacies, in private clinics and across the whole spectrum of care.

“From implementing a mental health screening program in community pharmacies to formalising transition of care pharmacist services to reduce the risk of medicine-related harm when transferring from hospital to home, pharmacists can and should be part of a collaborative, multidisciplinary and person-centred approach to mental health care.

“This is about ensuring patients have the support they need to get the most out of their medicines safely and effectively.

​Below are the key highlights of the report:

  • People with severe mental health conditions have poorer physical health than the general community and have a 12- to 16-year shorter life expectancy.
  • 18% of Australians use medicines to treat a mental health condition.
  • Antidepressants were involved in 31% of medicine-related deaths due to overdose and antipsychotics in 17% of medicine-related deaths due to overdose. 
  • 1 in 4 Australians are taking a medicine that would not be recommended for them based on the individual genetic variation of their drug metabolising enzymes.
  • Medicine changes are frequent in mental health facilities, with an average of 10 changes per admission. 
  • Over 40% of mental health facilities do not have any pharmaceutical handover at discharge.
     

Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention and Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health Emma McBride MP said, “This is a timely report on the importance of medication safety in mental health given the prevalence of common mental health disorders and the medications often prescribed as part of treatment and care.

​“As a pharmacist who worked in acute adult inpatient services, I know this report will be influential as we work together to improve patient care.”

Image credit: iStockphoto.com/BlackSalmon

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