Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist September 2012 Contents Australian Pharmacist September 2012 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd. 691
By Kate Carnell, CEO of beyondblue
BE OUR GUEST
As some of you will know, I am still a
registered pharmacist. I spent the rst 20
years of my working life operating my own
pharmacies. During that time, I became very
aware of the important role pharmacists
can play in improving the well being of the
communities they serve. Pharmacists know
their customers well. They know their families
and understand many of the issues a ecting
My time in pharmacy gave me a real interest
in health policy and how prevention and
early intervention can make a signi cant
di erence to health outcomes. This interest
in policy was one of the driving forces that
made me become involved in politics. I am
still one of the few government leaders that
gave themselves the health portfolio!
Pharmacy also made me very aware of
the issues surrounding mental health --
particularly depression and anxiety and its
impacts on people's lives.
One in ve Australians will experience
depression at some stage during their lives
and one in four will have an anxiety disorder.
One of my goals in my new role at beyondblue
is to ensure pharmacists are more involved
in early intervention and helping customers
manage their depression and anxiety.
People experiencing depression and/or
anxiety are also more likely to have a co-
morbid chronic physical illness.1 People with
diabetes are twice as likely to experience
depression. This increase in prevalence is
also evidenced with other chronic diseases.
Globally, the World Health Organization
predicts depression will become the
leading burden of disease by the year 2030,
surpassing ischaemic heart disease2.
The individual nancial costs are, of course,
not exclusively borne by those with
mental illness. It is often their carers who
experience nancial hardship due to lost
earnings, as well as increased living and
A role for pharmacies
I believe that the role pharmacists and
their sta can play to help their customers
recognise symptoms of depression and
anxiety and support them in seeking help,
has been underestimated. Seeking help early
is bene cial, as it can reduce the impact,
duration and severity of the problem. Despite
strong evidence of the e ectiveness of
medication and talking therapies, there are
currently low levels of help seeking by people
experiencing depression and anxiety.
The 2007 National Survey of Mental Health
and Wellbeing suggested that approximately
two-thirds of people currently experiencing
symptoms do not use professional services.
There are many barriers to seeking
help, including stigma; concerns about
con dentiality and trust; poor mental health
literacy; knowledge of available services; lack
of accessible services; people's beliefs and
culture; and a preference for 'self-reliance'.
To overcome the barriers to help seeking, it is
important that there is a range of treatment
options that meet the needs of di erent
population groups. beyondblue research
suggests that there is a strong role for online
and self-help information and services in
increasing knowledge of depression and
anxiety and access to services. People who
do seek help, do get better -- appropriate
support can make all the di erence.
Symptoms to look for
So as a busy pharmacist, what symptoms
should you be looking for? If a customer
indicates they are not sleeping well, are
tired all the time, have gained or lost weight
without dieting, have di culty concentrating
or cry for no obvious reason, they may be
Di cult conversations
I'm sure we've all been in the position where a
regular customer obviously isn't themselves.
I can remember a situation in my pharmacy
where a long-term customer who was always
well dressed started to look more and more
unkempt -- coming in with no makeup or her
usually styled hair messy.
I was so pleased that I asked the question
about how she was feeling and if things
were OK at home. It turned out she was
signi cantly depressed due to a very di cult
domestic situation and by convincing her to
go to the GP, she got treatment and was able
to better manage the problem. She later told
me she had contemplated suicide.
These conversations can be hard to have
with customers, but it does get easier with
experience and practice. The challenge is to
know how to bring it up and then to suggest
simple actions like visiting their GP, taking
home a printed brochure or encouraging
them to visit the beyondblue website.
When a person has depression or anxiety,
all the evidence suggests that recognising
symptoms, talking about it and getting
support in seeking help are crucial for people
Ways to provide help
There are several ways you can support
customers with depression and anxiety.
• beyondblue will provide a free information
stand to display a range of free resources
so customers can browse and take
home the relevant brochures or DVDs.
To order, contact the infoline on 1300 22
46 36 or visit: www.beyondblue.org.au/
• You can direct customers to the new
government portal mindhealthconnect
where a range of evidence-based e-mental
health online programs are available. Visit:
• Encourage your sta or customers to
complete beyondblue's Workplace Mental
Health Awareness e-learning program. This
free interactive online program examines
myths and misconceptions about
depression and anxiety disorders and aims
to increase awareness and understanding.
Since launching in January, around 4,000
people from 2,000 workplaces have
completed the program.
• Encourage your customer to see their GP.
1. Clarke DM, Currie KC. Depression, anxiety and their relationship
with chronic diseases: a review of the epidemiology, risk and
treatment evidence. MJA Supplement, 2009;190:S54 - S60.
2. World Health Organization. Global Burden of Disease 2004.
Switzerland: World Health Organization, 2008.
3. Cummins RA, et al. (2007). Australian Unity Wellbeing Index,
Survey 16.1, Special Report, in: The Wellbeing of Australians --
Carer Health and Wellbeing. Victoria: Deakin University.
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