How health technology could be the key to ending mental health stigma among pharmacists


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By Dr Zain Sikafi
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20 Sep 2018

There are a wealth of online and electronic resources to support healthcare professionals like pharmacists with mental health issues, says Dr Zain Sikafi, CEO and co-founder of mental health support website Mynurva

 

The high prevalence of mental health issues within the workplace – and particularly among healthcare professionals – is a pressing national problem in need of serious attention. Like many health professionals, community pharmacists work long hours in an often stressful and demanding setting – factors that can drastically elevate the risk of individuals suffering from ill health. Work-related stress can also aggravate existing mental health problems or contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression.

 

The importance of mental health within the workplace should not be overlooked – in fact, the Prime Minister’s independent ‘Thriving for Work’ report shed much-needed light on the gravity of the problem. It found that 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition, while a staggering 300,000 lose their jobs each year as a direct result of mental ill health.

 

While awareness of the issue is certainly growing, much more needs to be done to help people working in healthcare to be aware of their mental wellbeing. This involves placing a higher emphasis on teaching professionals to recognise symptoms of their own mental health problems, removing the negative stigma of mental-ill health within the workplace, and developing support mechanisms that can encourage those who are suffering to seek the help that they need.

 

Obstacles faced in tackling mental health issues

 

Paradoxically, mental health largely remains a taboo amongst mental health professionals and has been cited as a major factor preventing healthcare professionals from speaking out and getting help.

 

The negative stigma can make it incredibly difficult for health professionals to admit that they are struggling. Many of those who recognise they have a problem often feel the need to hide their concerns from their colleagues for fear that revealing mental health issues will have negative repercussions on their career.

 

Another important issue preventing professionals like community pharmacists from seeking medical help is simply a lack of time. Many just do not have the time to go to an appointment with a counsellor or therapist – particularly as too often mental health professionals are not available outside of traditional working hours.

 

Finding where to start

 

A recent survey by the mental health charity Mind revealed that people often struggle to find the resources they need to address mental health concerns – a concern that was expressed by third of all employers. Recently, Prince William launched a website in partnership with Mind in an effort to address this problem and at the same time combat workplace stigma. The website provides an online gateway to resources, training and information that will enable professionals to obtain the tools they need to address workplace wellbeing.

 

Online resources like this are a great way of opening up dialogue between colleagues and encouraging a change of culture within health professions. A recent survey conducted by Mind revealed that a massive 48% of people had experienced poor mental health at work – but only half had talked to their employer about it. Readily accessible resources can thereby educate professionals about common symptoms and signpost avenues for support – helping community pharmacists to recognise and combat mental health issues.

 

Taking advantage of health tech

 

Pharmacists who remain hesitant about discussing their mental health in the workplace are encouraged to look to other, external avenues of support. The recent rise of health technology has made getting professional help significantly easier and – most importantly – offers working professionals much-coveted confidentiality and flexibility.

 

Ultimately, the greatest barrier to health professionals struggling with mental ill-health is the stigma that continues to surround the topic. With huge numbers of people opting to suffer in silence instead of speaking out about their issues, there must be more efforts to foster an open workplace where professionals can feel comfortable discussing their mental health concerns. However, with the negative stigma unlikely to disappear overnight, it is of comfort to know that there are alternative options for those seeking confidential support through health technology.

 

Having worked as a GP for several years, Dr Zain Sikafi founded Mynurva to improve access to mental health support, providing fast access to therapy or counselling, confidentially, securely and discreetly, via its live video platform.

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