Mental illnesses are common in the United States. Estimates from the National Institutes of Health1 suggest that more than 1 in 5 American adults lives with a mental illness; those illnesses range from mild cases of anxiety or depression to more serious conditions that interfere with major life activities, requiring significant social and medical support.
As it did with many other medical conditions and health care issues, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated rates of mental illness globally. A 2022 report from the World Health Organization2 indicated that the pandemic trigged a “massive” increase of anxiety and depression, with a 25% rise in global prevalence—with young persons and women bearing the brunt of that burden.
As the shortage of psychiatrists grows in tandem with the demand for mental health services,3 pharmacists can fill an important role in supporting individuals with mental health care needs, both in the pharmacy and as a part of a larger multidisciplinary team.4 For example, pharmacists can work in clinics and administer long-acting injectable antipsychotic medications or provide psychiatric pharmacy services on college campuses. Independent prescribing pharmacists can play a role in the care of those living with mental illness, with studies demonstrating the positive outcomes of pharmacist-led prescribing on reductions in emergency psychiatric service needs. Pharmacists can also implement a depression screening program in their stores,5 evaluating patients with the Patient Health Questionnaire and making referrals to a primary or psychiatric health care provider.
At the end of April, Drug Topics produced an Around the Practice® series focused on treatment-resistant depression. We hope you find these videos educational and informative, and that they can help guide your practice in the future.
Although providing care for patients with mental health challenges is crucial, pharmacists must also ensure that time is spent taking care of their own mental health. Rates of provider burnout, exacerbated by the pandemic, remain high: eighty-two percent of health workers who responded to a 2020 survey reported being emotionally and physically exhausted,6 whereas results of another survey indicated that 9 in 10 pharmacists were at high risk for burnout, regardless of practice setting.7 These numbers are stark, and it is clear that systemic changes must be made to improve the well-being of everyone.