Mental Health First Aid as a Public Health Service

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The chapter on Value-Added Services as a Component of Enhancing Pharmacists’ Roles in Public Health in the Pharmacy Management text asks a poignant question; that is, “Build it and they will come?”. In other words, if pharmacies begin providing a new service, will patients simply flock to it? Well, the answer is more complex than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. However, as the chapter rightfully explains, the chances of success are minimal if the pharmacy has not identified an unmet need of patients, has not conducted the proper planning, and not marketed the new service effectively. That being said, the chapter also describes the evolutionary role of pharmacists as guardians of public health, and there are many opportunities to seize upon that to date we have not a very good job with.  

Chowdary et al examine the prospects of pharmacists being more involved in the provision of mental health first aid.1 In any given year, approximately 34% of adults in the U.S. suffer from a mental health condition or disorder. Studies have shown that mental illness carries with it a stigma against patients often seen even among health care providers. Mental health first aid (MHFA) is a mental health advocacy and training program that educates lay public members on how to react and respond to someone suffering through a mental health problem or crisis. In this case, the pharmacist and staff are members of the lay public, given that they are not experts in mental health. The authors of the paper discussed here state that more research is needed to determine the how pharmacists can be further integrated into MHFA programs. For example, pharmacists could end up taking on more liability as a result. However, given the pharmacy’s very frequent interaction with patients who suffer from a mental health condition and given pharmacists’ ability to triage patients, elicit social support, protect other patients, and diversify revenue streams, training in MHFA could potentially be a boon for pharmacies and for those served.

Identifying new avenues of care and seizing opportunities in public health for unmet patient needs are among the pharmacy manager’s responsibilities. This is done after careful evaluation, which includes scanning the literature and sometimes just simply talking with staff and with patients. After initial consideration, then more formal business planning can begin.

Additional information about Value-Added Services as a Component of Enhancing Pharmacists’ Roles in Public Health can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 4e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 4e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.

1Chowdary A, Zlotnikova V, Lucas C, Lonie JM. How do mental health first aid interventions influence patient help-seeking behaviors? A dilemma for pharmacist mental health first aid responders. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2018;

Shane Desselle

Professor of Social and Behavioral Pharmacy, Touro University California


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almost 2 years ago

To what extent would this benefit patients in community pharmacy?