Mental Health Awareness Week 2012

By Dave Branford, Chief Mental Health Pharmacist

Mental Awareness Health Week starts today (21-28 May). The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week (run by the Mental Health Foundation) is altruism – Doing Good Does You Good. The week will focus on how by helping others you can help yourself, including random acts of kindness, volunteering and peer support

So how altruistic am I? Do I go that extra mile for people with mental health problems? I probably do because it is part of being a pharmacist; part of being a healthcare professional.  Somehow it is different when it is a patient. I am quite happy to close the door and turn off the computer when it is just dealing with never ending paperwork but when it is a person – that’s different. Altruism –going the extra mile is in the blood of pharmacy.

But what about mental health? It’s easy for me, you might say, because it’s my job. On a day to day basis I am interacting with some of the most mentally unwell people you can imagine.  Medicines play a huge part in both making and keeping them well.  Most of my career has been in mental health. What about the rest of the profession!

The interesting thing is that when you talk to patients with mental health problems most speak of local pharmacists as being one of the key health care professionals in their lives. Numerous studies have shown that for many people with severe and enduring mental health problems the community pharmacist is the only healthcare professional that they have regular contact with.  So the whole profession is ideally placed to go that extra mile for people with mental health problems and many do.

But we could do more. I look forward to the day when in addition to every pharmacy being a healthy living pharmacy it is also a mental health and wellbeing pharmacy. Where the one in 5 of the population with mental health problems can be confident of someone with time to listen, able to offer sound advice on maintaining mental wellness. It’s not just in the community though, I also look forward to the day when a person with mental health problems can be admitted to a general hospital and not treated like a pariah. Plenty more opportunities for the pharmacy profession to take that extra step so maybe mark May 21-28 as the week to start.