How is mental health care provided through community pharmacies? A quest for improvement

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Mental health, Community pharmacy services, Pharmacists, Attitude, Professional practice


Background: Mental disease burden is increasing globally, and a substantial shortage of mental health professionals remains. Community pharmacists can improve population mental health outcomes to bridge the mental health care gap. However, there is a paucity of data on community pharmacists’ provision of mental health care. Objective: To assess community pharmacist-delivered care to people with mental illness in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), focusing on dispensing and counseling practices, pharmacists’ confidence and comfort in providing care, and attitudes and beliefs towards mental illness. Methods: This was a mixed-methods study with an exploratory, sequential design. Semi-structured interviews explored community pharmacists’ practices, challenges and strategies to improve care. Data were analyzed thematically, and the results guided questionnaire development. The questionnaire was also informed by the Framework of Core Mental Health Competencies for All Pharmacy Professionals and other relevant literature and administered to community pharmacists in four out of seven emirates. Logistic regression was used to identify the predictors of pharmacist practices. Results: In the interviews, community pharmacists described adopting a precautionary attitude and perceived their role as a dispensing one. They reported challenges such as emotional discomfort and lack of training but highlighted the need for a different approach to patients with mental illness. In total, 252 pharmacists completed the questionnaire, and 74% reported performing at least five counseling practices. Logistic regression showed that pharmacists who performed a higher number of practices (≥5) were younger, received continuing education on mental health care in the last two years, and had higher confidence levels. Conclusion: UAE community pharmacists performed basic dispensing practices and reported discomfort during encounters with patients with mental illness. Training on patient-centered communication skills and psychiatric therapeutics is needed to improve pharmacist-delivered services, alongside increased collaboration with other providers and services.

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