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Editor's view: When it comes to mental health, pharmacy is failing


Editor's view: When it comes to mental health, pharmacy is failing

It was a pleasure to interview Harpreet Chana last month.

She spoke candidly about her struggles with mental health and, with a touch of understandable emotion, the moment she stood on a railway bridge and contemplated suicide.

Recalling such a traumatic experience couldn’t have been easy for her. I was gripped, not only by her story, but by her openness and strength to admit that she has had mental health problems.

Harpreet’s story is inspiring. She has worked in healthcare for nearly 20 years and held senior roles with two national pharmacy bodies. And as she battled her personal demons, she decided, with inspiring bloody-mindedness, that her mental illness would not win.

Yet she ended up doing much more than help herself. She used what she went through to help others, first training to be a professional coach specialising in mental health awareness and prevention, then setting up the Mental Wealth Academy.

What resonated as she spoke was how difficult it was initially for her to get the right support. As she pointed out frankly, mental health support is simply not “very good at the moment in our sector.”

“The point is when you’re feeling like that, where do you go? A lot of organisations don’t have anywhere for you to go,” she said.

“Some people have employee system programmes...but there needs to be much more done around that signposting and having the right pathway internally and externally for referrals.”

At a time of great pressure for pharmacists and their teams across the UK, it is disconcerting to think that the system in which they work is dysfunctional when it comes to ensuring they have quick and easy access to the right mental health support.

Vulnerable individuals can rely on Pharmacist Support which does a fantastic job but much more is needed to ensure nobody falls through the cracks.

North East London local pharmaceutical committee secretary Hemant Patel has said the pharmacy contract should contain provision for mental health. Pharmacy organisations and employers could invest more time and money in mental health awareness training.

Whatever the panacea, it is clear they could do a lot more.

Neil Trainis is the editor of Independent Community Pharmacist.

Picture: Prostock-Studio (iStock)

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