Minister's focus on mental health welcomed

Media Release

Date: 15 August 2019

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has welcomed today's strong focus by Health Minister Greg Hunt on addressing Australia’s mental health challenges.

Addressing the National Press Club, Mr Hunt described mental health as the “great national challenge” with over four million Australians each year affected by some form of mental ill-health.

Mr Hunt is also to be congratulated for declaring a zero suicide target for Australia, and for launching a National Children’s Mental Health Strategy.

The National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, George Tambassis said: “As Mr Hunt noted, we have an extraordinary health system but one which faces many challenges, none bigger than the scourge of mental ill-health.

“We need long-term thinking on addressing mental health issues in the community, and that is what Mr Hunt provided today,” he said.

As the most accessible of all health professionals, local community pharmacists have a vital role in helping patients manage these issues.

For example, many community pharmacies now provide services to help people who are experiencing depression and increasing numbers of community pharmacists have undertaken courses in mental health first aid.

“More and more pharmacies now have a private consultation space available for difficult and sensitive conversations with patients when they arise,” Mr Tambassis said.

The easy accessibility of community pharmacies for mental health patients is most important. Being able to walk in off the street and speak to a health professional who understands the issues and who can provide counsel or referral to other services is highly valued.

In addition, pharmacists are ideally placed to recognise potential early signs or symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health disorders in the community pharmacy setting.

With more than 80 per cent of people using the same pharmacy regularly, their community pharmacist is able to recognise changes in their behaviour or mood. Patients also feel more at ease talking to the pharmacists that they already know and may have been dealing with for their health needs over a long period.

A policy paper released by the Pharmacy Guild today, Community Pharmacies: Part of the Solution, identified an underutilisation of Australian pharmacists, and potential for them to make a bigger contribution to Australia’s health system.

The policy paper found pharmacists are in a unique position to relieve some of the stresses and strains on the health system by fulfilling their scope of practice.

“Community pharmacies are the most accessible place to get health advice. It makes sense to make the most of pharmacists as part of the solution to the healthcare concerns of Australians, including around mental health,” Mr Tambassis said.

Contact: Greg Turnbull
Phone: 0412 910 261

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Page last updated 15 August 2019