Mental Health is described as the emotional, psychological, and social well-being that affects all aspects of our life. It influences how we think, feel, and act.(3) Mental health also has a vast contribution to our health, increasing the risk of many chronic disease states like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. With 1 in 5 US adults living with mental illnesses, it is one of the most common health conditions.(1)
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a course that teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.(2) The training guides you through an essential step-by-step action plan, so you know how to support someone who may be experiencing mental health stressors.
Design and Structure
The National Council for Mental Wellbeing supplies the opportunity to search for training by location. MHFA can be received in both virtual and in-person formats. This training is a 7.5-hour course that can consist of two parts, a self-paced pre-course (2 hours) and an instructor-led training (4.5-5.5 hours) or you can choose to do a 7.5-hour, instructor led in-person session.(2)
Personal Experience of Mental Health First Aid course
Overall, I found the MHFA course to be an essential part of patient care and everyday life. It gave me the ability to feel comfortable asking tough questions about mental health and how to navigate next steps. This training could be the difference in saving a stranger, a patient, a co-worker, a friend, or a family member.
To give a deeper understanding of how mental health can be utilized in community pharmacy. I asked other pharmacists to share their experiences.
Mental Health with ASHP
“The ASHP Well-Being Ambassador Training Program is an in depth look at how you can help create a Well-Being Program in your workplace. Over the six-month course, you will be introduced to many ways to both set up a program or improve an existing program. Monthly webinars summarize the readings for each module, and these can be as interactive as your cohort group wants to make it. One of the best take aways from this course is that there are many ways to improve Well-Being in your workplace, and if one does not fit your organization there are others to try.”
-Melissa Curtis, PharmD
Mental Health First Aid in Community Pharmacy Practice
“One of our diabetes patients had missed his last 2 visits. When I called to see if we could better accommodate his schedule with a virtual visit or if we needed to refill anything for him, he told me he had stopped all his medications and was ready to die. He shared that he felt horrible (his blood sugar was over 400 mg/dl) and had missed several days of work because he did not want to get off his couch. He was concerned he would soon lose his job, too. After talking to him for several more minutes, he reminded me that his mom had died due to diabetic complications a year ago. He did not want to go to the emergency department for treatment and said he appreciated that we cared about him. He just wanted to "lay there and die". We discussed his options for depression treatment, but he declined any offer for assistance--although he thanked me the entire conversation for offering.
After hanging up, we called our local mental health facility for some guidance. It was recommended that we call the police department close to his home and have them do a welfare check. I called the police dept to follow up an hour later and they reported he was fine.
The next day I called the patient back. I was nervous that he would be upset about having the police at his home. He thanked me and told me he was on his way to work for the night. He was nervous because his vision was blurry, and he was having difficulty driving. He continued to refuse to go to the emergency department. I encouraged him to pull off the road and told him I was calling an ambulance to pick him up. The hospital treated and released him the next day and he has started counseling for depression. His primary care physician referred him to our local endocrinologist. Since then, he continues to follow up with his endocrinologist and our pharmacy team.”
-Sara Traylor, PharmD, BC-ADM, CDCES, DipACLM
1. About mental health (2023) Mental Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm (Accessed: May 3, 2023).
2. About MHFA (2022) Mental Health First Aid. National Council for Mental Wellbeing. Available at: https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/about/ (Accessed: May 2, 2023).
3. What is mental health? (2023) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Available at: https://www.samhsa.gov/mental-health (Accessed: May 5, 2023).