In an action plan published last week (August 9), the Scottish government said it will fund the training for healthcare professionals providing “frontline services” – including pharmacists – as part of its goal of reducing the rate of suicide in the country by 20% by 2022.
Speaking to C+D exclusively yesterday (August 14), the government said: “Community pharmacists have a key role in raising awareness about suicide and helping break down the stigma often associated with suicide.”
“They also can help by signposting people who are at risk of suicide to appropriate resources and support services,” it added.
The government will fund the creation of “a core general module on mental health and suicide awareness” by May 2019, accompanied by a “suite of additional ‘bolt on’ modules appropriate for particular professional groups”, it said.
Pharmacists can also access for free Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid course, which takes 12 hours to complete, it said.
“Organisations should consider what mental health training is necessary, just as they do for physical health training, as part of the continuing professional development of their staff,” it pointed out.
CPS: Suicide is a “major health problem”
Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) told C+D that “resource and training to support awareness, conversations and signposting within community pharmacy would be welcome”.
“People can and do present in pharmacies during episodes of acute distress,” it added.
Community pharmacy teams can be the “access point for some of the most vulnerable people” and may be able to spot patients who are at risk, when they request excessive quantities of over-the-counter medicines linked to suicide, it said.
Pharmacists could benefit from training in awareness of where to signpost patients at risk of suicide, and on how to have sensitive conversations with them, CPS said.
Pharmacists can also help by providing counselling on antidepressants, it added.
The government has recognised suicide as a “major public health problem”, CPS said. “There can be few areas that can be as difficult or as important to intervene in as this.”
RPS Scotland wants improved suicide prevention services
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Scotland told C+D yesterday (August 14) that it welcomed the announcement, noting that it had discussed pharmacists having a greater role in mental health with some organisations who are part of the action plan.
A “more formal resourced service” for helping patients at risk of suicide is required, the RPS added, “with pharmacists working in partnership with GPs [and] support workers”.
“Pharmacists in patient-facing roles could identify people at risk. Raising awareness of the signs of suicide risk among the profession would be extremely helpful,” the RPS said.
However, there is “much to build on” in other areas of suicide prevention, such as giving Scottish community pharmacists access to patient records so they have the correct diagnosis for their patients, it stressed.