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If elected to the RPS Scottish board, how would I champion the care of those with mental illness?

The following question was asked as part of the online hustings by Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) members to all the candidates standing for election this year:

What do the candidates see as the role of the pharmacy team in ensuring Parity of Esteem and in improving the management of mental illness, and what role will the English Board play in delivering these essential goals?


Johnathan Laird
Johnathan Laird


MENTAL illness has no boundaries.

Roughly 1 in 4 people suffer a diagnosable mental illness every year. As I ponder this question I look at the shelf in my pharmacy that holds the top 50 fast moving lines. I noted this afternoon that 6 of the 50 lines on the top 50 shelf were indicated for mental illness. If 12 per cent of our fastest moving drugs in a given pharmacy are being used to treat mental illness something certainly needs to be done.

I believe the stigma attached to mental illness is the problem.

If patients fear the consequences of revealing the fact that they suffer then presentations of mental illness will be suppressed. I believe that prejudice and discrimination particularly in the workplace still exists. A patient who presents with depression should be approached with the same respect and belief as a patient who presents with a broken arm. Patients are never stigmatised because they have a broken arm and neither should they be if they suffer a bout of depression. The thing about mental health is that there is never a war wound and for the masses it is much misunderstood. Validation and being believed are often insurmountable hurdles to cross.

Patients must now never feel scared, ashamed or nervous about presenting to a pharmacist to seek information or advice about their mental illness. To facilitate this pharmacists, the RPS and RPS board members have a professional obligation to lead by example.

I practice within community pharmacy and see pre-diagnosed mental health patients all the time. This is the best environment from which to lead by example. As potential RPS board members we must champion the excellent treatment of this patient group. Given the footfall into community pharmacy on a daily basis in the UK pharmacists are perfectly placed to support this patient group whether they a re medicated or not.

The RPS have devised an excellent mental health toolkit which can be found here.

As board members it is up to us to support the use of this toolkit, but more than that, use our influence to tap into the expertise of pharmacists who work in this area. I recently published a series of articles on my site that looked at the work of Hayley Gorton who is completing a PhD in pharmacist involvement in suicide care. Her blog can be found below:

Pharmacists in suicide prevention – where do they fit?

Ever wondered how pharmacy teams contribute to suicide prevention?

Does pharmacists in public health = pharmacists in suicide prevention?

As you can see, she clearly knows her subject and I have great respect for her, as she is exploring the difficult nature of this most awful corner of mental illness. Without pharmacists like Hayley taking time to share and create a narrative around these difficult issues, we will never progress.

On a personal level I have suffered depression in the past. I had the courage to write briefly about it and how as a professional it had an impact on my life: Mental health – what’s the big deal?

I hope that this answer shows that on a personal, professional and national level I will be willing to stand up and be an advocate for those that suffer mental illness, especially those who suffer in silence.

Johnathan Laird is a community pharmacist independent prescriber with a special interest in asthma. He is based in Aberdeen and is a candidate for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Scottish Board

Follow Johnathan @JohnathanLaird


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