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Continuing the Focus on Mental Health

Although May is over, and with it Mental Health Awareness Month, pharmacy teams can continue to not only focus on the mental health needs of their patients, but also reflect on their own mental well-being.

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A recent survey from CVS Health found that the majority of adults in the US have significant mental health problems, and this has increased steadily since 2020. The survey, conducted between March 19 and 21, 2024 , included a total of 2,202 adults and found that the reported number of adults who have significant mental health problems increased by about 6% from 2022 and 15% from 2020.1

Healthcare workers also face similar issues, with mental health challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, workloads, staff shortages, challenging patients, and more. Researchers have found that as pharmacists became frontline healthcare workers, they also experienced high levels of burnout, anxiety, depression and stress.2

In a cross-sectional study, 47% of pharmacists surveyed reported medium or high levels of burnout, and half attributed their burnout to the pandemic. Additionally, more than 80% of respondents reported that their burnout lasted up to a year.

While self-care measures can of course be helpful, a growing body of work calls for healthcare leadership to address the systemic issues that contribute to these mental health challenges. Organizational cultures that support well-being have been shown to improve the mental well-being of individual pharmacy staff members and require leaders to actively participate in promoting and modeling well-being. For example, organizations can establish well-resourced wellness directors, physicians with more flexibility, family-friendly policies such as paid parental leave, reasonable workloads, encouraged time off, and mental health programming tailored to pharmacists.3

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Of course, addressing patient needs will always be on the minds of pharmacists. In this issue, author Amie Stephens, PharmD, MHA, writes about the vital role of community pharmacists in addressing the social determinants of health. By listening carefully and asking follow-up questions, pharmacists can identify patients who need help and provide them with crucial resources.

Separately, in the MTM Consult article, author Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, PACS, discusses how pharmacists can counsel patients in the weeks leading up to summer, as the holidays quickly approach. In addition to sunscreen selection and proper use, pharmacists can remind patients to stay up-to-date on travel vaccines when necessary.

As you read this issue, we invite you to take a moment to reflect on your own mental well-being. To provide the best care to patients, pharmacists (and technicians) must first take care of themselves.

As always, thanks for reading.

1. CVS Health/Morning Consult survey finds mental health problems increasing substantially among Americans of all backgrounds. Press release. CVS Health; May 2, 2022. Accessed May 14, 2024. https://www.cvshealth.com/news/mental-health/cvs-health-morning-consult-survey-finds-mental-health-concerns.html
2. Ishaky L, Sivanthan M, Tadrous M, et al. Pharmacists’ mental health during the first two years of the pandemic: a socioecological scoping review. Pharmacy (Basel).2023;11(2):64. doi:10.3390/pharmacy11020064
3. Melnyk BM, Hsieh AP, Tan A, et al. Health status, burnout, healthy behaviors, workplace wellness support, and concerns about medication errors in pharmacists during the COVID-19 pandemic. J Occup Environ Med. 2023;65(8):699-705. doi:10.1097/JOM.0000000000002889

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