A pharmacy support charity has seen a huge increase in the number of pharmacy team members using their services over lockdowns, while cases of trauma among healthcare professionals brought about by the pandemic are also on the rise.

Pharmacist Support saw a 123% increase in visits to their stress and anxiety resources online between March 2020 and March 2021, compared to the same period the year before.

In response, the charity launched a counselling service that provided direct psychological support for those who are experiencing mental health issues.

Danielle Hunt, Pharmacist Support’s chief executive, told The Pharmacist that between April 2021 and October 2021, 55 individuals had referred themselves for counselling through Pharmacist Support, with over 186 sessions having already been delivered.

‘We’re delighted to report that 89% of those referred have already reported improved symptoms,’ she said.

Many pharmacy team members using the counselling service presented with symptoms of trauma — either from their experience of working during the pandemic or from previous experiences of trauma which the pandemic re-triggered, the organisation said.

Pharmacists are not alone in experiencing mental health issues relating to trauma over the last year and a half, with NHS staff seeking help in record numbers during the pandemic.

Healthcare workers are suffering from trauma-related disorders

According to a new study from Oxford University, 44% of healthcare workers are suffering from trauma-related disorders such as PTSD and 39% from depression following the pandemic.

Doctor Jennifer Wild, lead researcher of the study and director of Shape Recovery — a rehabilitation programme for trauma-related disorders — told BBC News today that she was ‘shocked’ by the number of staff being referred to her programme.

In May, The Pharmacist launched a survey which discovered that over three-quarters (80%) of pharmacy professionals found that work pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted their mental health.

Research carried out by Pharmacist Support and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) at the end of 2020 echoed The Pharmacists’ findings. It found that 85% of pharmacy team members believed the pandemic had impacted their mental health either partially or to a significant extent.

Ms Hunt added: ‘I don’t think any of us appreciated just how much this service was needed and having spoken to numerous individuals at both the Clinical Pharmacy Congress and Pharmacy Show recently we are certainly glad to have this provision now in place as we all begin to process and reflect on these incredibly challenging past 18 months.

‘We encourage anyone struggling with or suffering from anxiety, depression, a change in family circumstances, bereavement, and other psychological issues to please reach out and access this free and confidential support,’ she said.