Community pharmacies are increasingly playing a major role in helping patients manage mental health issues. In addition, because of their accessibility, community pharmacies may be the first place a person visits to seek help from a healthcare professional in regard to a mental illness.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013)
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released in 2013 its latest figures on mental health which showed that in 2007 (the most recent data available) females aged 16-85 years had a higher rate of reported mental health disorders (22 per cent) than males aged 16-85 (18 per cent).
Anxiety disorders among females were the main contributor to the higher rate of mental health issues.
However, males were more likely to have had a mental disorder at some stage in their lifetime compared to females.
National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (2007)
The National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (2007) showed about 7.3 million or 45 per cent of Australians aged 16–85 will experience a common mental health-related condition such as depression, anxiety or a substance use disorder in their lifetime.
National Survey of Psychosis (2010)
Estimates from the second National Survey of Psychosis conducted in March 2010 showed that almost 64,000 people in Australia have some form of a psychotic illness.
National Household Survey – Young Minds Matter
Mental illness is also prevalent in younger Australians. The second National Household Survey of the mental health and wellbeing of Australian children and adolescents (Young Minds Matter) released in August 2015 estimated that 560,000 child and adolescents aged 4–17 (almost 14 per cent) experienced mental health disorders in 2012–13.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)
According to the AIHW, the effects of mental illness can be severe on the individuals and families concerned and its influence is far-reaching for society as a whole.
AIHW points out that social problems associated with mental illness can include poverty, unemployment or reduced productivity and homelessness. Those with mental illness often experience problems such as isolation, discrimination and stigma.
AIHW estimates that more $8 billion a year is spent on mental health-related services in Australia. Services include residential and community services, hospital based services (both inpatient and outpatient), consultation with specialists and general practitioners.
Role of your community pharmacist
With the right health care support, patients experiencing a mental health issue can boost their wellbeing if their condition is managed. Community pharmacies play an important role in helping patients’ (and their carers) stay mentally healthy through education on medicines and options, promoting adherence to their medicines regimens and also in helping the lifestyle changes (weight management, smoking cessation etc) which can help them in managing their mental health issues and working collaboratively with their GP and other health care professionals
Community pharmacists are the medicines experts and anyone taking medicines for mental health issues should talk to their pharmacist about these medicines, how they should be taken and any possible side effects.