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Your pharmacy and mental health

Link’s Bank City Pharmacy owner and Responsible Pharmacist, Deevesh Govind, believes that Pharmacists, being amongst the most accessible healthcare workers, play a pivotal role in the management of mental health.

Mental health has had a long history of social stigmas that spread through society. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of mental health and the role pharmacists play in the treatment of mental illnesses.

Pharmacists are accessible and trusted healthcare professionals in our communities. As pharmacists, we know our patients well and we are always available to them. Being part of the healthcare circle, we will listen to our patients and screen, detect and refer patients to an appropriate specialist for treatment. The linkage of care in the management of mental illness is a fundamental role played by pharmacists.

The role of the pharmacist does not end with early detection and referral to a general practitioner or specialist.

Medicine is a major modality of treatment for most mental illnesses. Pharmacists have extensive knowledge to provide patients with the safe and effective use of medicine. Pharmacists address what the medication is being used for, how to properly use it and how long it may take to see the full therapeutic effect.

We listen to our patients, concerns, address their questions and set clear expectations to ensure adherence to their therapy. We recommend the most appropriate medication that is cost effective and safe for use depending on each patient. We educate patients on the side effects they may experience and when and how to escalate it to their doctors.

You are not alone.
According to studies published in SAGE journal, the South African Journal of Psychology, if you are experiencing mental health challenges, you are certainly not alone.

The journal reports:

  • One in six South Africans suffers from anxiety, depression, or a substance abuse disorder.
  • 40% of South Africans living with HIV have a comorbid disorder.
  • 41% of pregnant women are depressed.
  • About 60% of South Africans could be suffering from post-traumatic stress, which includes motor vehicle accidents and crime as triggers.

Unfortunately only 27% of those living with mental disorders receive treatment.

The impact of COVID-19.
Data presented by Researchgate prior to COVID-19 indicated that mental wellness was already a concern in South Africa. A subsequent SAGE report notes that anecdotal evidence from clinicians cited increased anxiety and fears as a result of COVID-19. On top of this, many patients being treated for mental health diseases skipped their appointments during the pandemic, aggravating their conditions.

Categories of mental health disease.
According to the WHO (World Health Organisation), there are many different mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other phychosis, dementia, and developmental disorders including autism. Given what people have had to endure over the last few years, this article expands on depression.

It’s not your fault.
The Harvard Medical School writes that there are many possible causes of depression including genetic vulnerability and stressful life events. WebMD lists disturbing childhood experiences, alcohol or substance abuse, illness and long-term pain as other possible causes of depression. From this, it is clear that depression is not your fault, you cannot just ‘pull yourself together’, and it is a disorder like any other which requires treatment.

Recognising depression.

WebMD lists a number of symptoms and advises that you may not experience all of them. Some of the ways that you might feel include:

  • Sad, empty, or anxious.
  • Helpless, worthless, or guilty.
  • Hopeless, including thoughts of suicide.
  • Irritable.
  • Less interest in favourite activities.
  • Low energy.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Change in appetite.

Link’s Ryan Conybeare concludes with an appeal to the family and friends of those suffering from mental health disease.

It is not their fault and they do not want to feel this way. The worst thing that you can do is to counsel them to ‘get over it’ because without treatment, it is unlikely. Rather, recognise that a mental health condition is like any other uninvited disease, encourage them to get treatment, and support them on the road to recovery.



While all reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this article, information may change or become dated, as new developments occur. The Link group shall not be held liable or accountable for the accuracy, completeness or correctness of any information for any purpose. No content in this article, irrespective of the date or reference source, should be viewed as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor, pharmacist or any other suitably qualified clinician.