World Mental Health Day

10 October 2012

World Mental Health Day

The recognition that depression is a global problem will be highlighted today (10 October) in World Mental Health Day which aims to raise public awareness about mental health issues. The day is significant because it promotes open discussion of mental disorders, and investments in prevention, promotion and treatment services.

This year the theme for the day is "Depression: A Global Crisis", and the figures underscore just how true this is. Depression affects more than 350 million people of all ages, in all communities, and is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease.

Although there are known effective treatments for depression, access to treatment is a problem in most countries and in some countries fewer than 10 per cent of those who need it receive such treatment.

In Australia, moves by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA)to better utilise the skills and knowledge of pharmacists as accessible and trusted health care professionals, will hopefully improve access.

Figures show that one in five Australians experience a mental disorder in any given year, and one in two during their lifetime. This is reflected in figures showing an estimated 29 million prescriptions for mental health-related medications being dispensed in 2009-10.

For some time, PSA has been involved in detailed consultations with stakeholders on enhancing the role of pharmacists in the provision of mental health care.

The results of this work will be released soon in the Framework for pharmacists as partners in mental health care which has been developed in consultation with an Expert Steering Committee (ESC) comprising representatives from pharmacy and mental health organisations, the medical, nursing, psychology and psychiatry professions, and consumer and carer representatives.

This is a very important body of work as it will help set in place a structure for much of the work that pharmacists already undertake. As the most accessible health-care professionals, pharmacists are often the first point of call for people with mental health problems. The pharmacist then has an important role to play in supporting medication adherence and helping consumers to manage their condition.

This new framework can be broadly categorised under four phases - health promotion, supporting early detection and intervention, minimising illness and maximising recovery. It will also explore some of the main barriers and enablers to pharmacists becoming partners in the delivery of mental health care.

Pharmacists across Australia also interact on a daily basis with people who suffer from psychological or mental health problems and therefore we are in the prime position to help and advise these people. This framework will help to build a better system and ensure even better outcomes for people suffering from mental health conditions.

Dr Claire O'Reilly
Dr Claire O'Reilly

Article written by Dr Claire O'Reilly, Associate Lecturer at the Faculty of Pharmacy and National Vice-President of thePharmaceutical Society of Australia.

This article first appeared in Pharmacy News on September 28, 2012