by Vladimire Herard

In the face of the pandemic, climate change, mass shootings and other national and global developments that serve as stressors, about 50 million adults experience mental illness in the United States at least once in a given year and pharmacists can lead them into actively maintaining treatment.

Mental illness is one of the most common adverse health conditions, which means nearly 20 percent of the population suffering nationally with another five percent enduring severe bouts.

Community pharmacists can watch for all the major signs of such conditions in patients, the Centers for Disease Control, the Johns Hopkins Hospital, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Institutes of Mental Health report.

Many pharmacists may not feel at ease discussing mental health with patients because of the social stigma that plagues these conditions.

However, they can be mindful and seek out symptoms associated with mental illness, help triage patients with the proper healthcare services provider, supervise medication use and advocate for public health awareness.

Psychotropic medicines make up 13 percent of the top 300 most prescribed drugs in the country.

Additionally, more than 200 nonpsychotropic drugs include depression as a side effect, categorized in such classes as analgesics, anti-convulsants, benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, proton pump inhibitors, statins and stimulants.

In part, because of these effects, some mentally ill patients do not adhere to their medication regimen.

Patients on anti-depressant drugs fail to adhere at a rate as much as 56 percent. Schizophrenics or those stricken with bipolar depression refuse to take their medicines at a clip of 61 percent.

Other examples of nonadherence include patients not filling out prescriptions from the start, taking doses at their own pace or halting medication altogether. Motives range from patients’ mistrust of the drugs prescribed, their side effects or their costs.

As a result, some of the methods that pharmacists can use to boost adherence include drug education and tracking side effects of certain medications.

Education can alleviate the mistrust or concerns patients have with first prescriptions once pharmacists inform them about the purpose of the drugs, how to use them properly, how long they can experience benefits and which side effects may arise.

If they will provide patients with medical literature, the National Institute of Health and the American Medical Association urge phrmacists to ensure that much of the content can be read at the sixth-grade level so patients can understand.

Most community pharmacists are easy to access. However, about 90 percent of patients living in the city travel two miles to the nearest pharmacy and 70 percent of rural patients reside within 15 miles of one.

Pharmacists can respond to this distance issue by providing patients with a list of available pharmacies, including their own. They can also provide a list of mental health services providers and hotline numbers.

Making patients more familiar and more comfortable with the issue of pharmacy branch distance and the proximity of mental counseling services may push them to adhere to their drug regimens.

In this way, pharmacists can intervene each time patients obtain new prescriptions for psychiatric conditions and they have undergone mental health screenings and conferred with their counselors.


National Institute of Mental Health, https:/