Mental health pharmacy can be an extremely rewarding specialism to go into; working with people living with mental illness is at the heart of the what we do.
Working in mental health means applying and extending your knowledge as a pharmacy professional to help people living with mental illness. Many of our members are working in specialist mental health settings, such as mental health NHS trusts, while others are working for community, acute or other health organisations, with a particular focus on mental health or learning disabilities.
As one of our members says:
"I have worked in a variety of clinical specialities – ophthalmology, general medicine, surgery, orthopaedics, paediatrics… they are all rewarding fields to work in; you can achieve an incredible amount and play a vital role in helping someone to recover from whatever ailment or injury afflicts them, but when your job is done, it is done.
"In mental health it is different. The role can be challenging mentally, physically and emotionally, but you work with an individual and play a part in their therapy to help them move from a point in their life where they suffer distress or impairment that affects their ability to work, care, function and live. Your work with the individual might be temporary in part, but you will often work with that individual for many months or years – where you can see real change and true benefit to the individual – the individual as a person, not just an illness.
"It is rewarding to help someone recover from a hip operation or chest infection, and there is real value in this, but working with an individual and being part of helping them to reach a point in their life where they can live more freely and have more value in their own life is the most rewarding job I could ever hope to have."
Roles in mental health
If you are interested in the experience of other pharmacists and pharmacy technicians working in mental health, you may be interested in the following articles:
- Caroline Parker is Consultant Pharmacist Adult Mental Health, Central & North West London NHS Foundation Trust. She shared her experience of developing a career in mental health in this Pharmaceutical Journal interview from 2013: http://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/news-and-analysis/build-a-career-in-psychiatric-pharmacy/11117787.article
- Juliet Shepherd is a mental health pharmacist at the Wye Valley NHS Trust. In a blog post from 2015, she gives insights into her typical day: http://www.hospitalpharmacyeurope.com/home-care/blog-day-life-mental-health-pharmacist
- Joanne Woodward is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and NIHR/HEE MClinRes student at The University of Manchester. She has written for us about her experience: How I became a Pharmacy Technician Researcher
Mental health for non-specialists
We believe it is valuable for all pharmacy professionals to build their understanding of mental health conditions. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are often a first port of call for minor ailments, and could find themselves being asked about more serious conditions.
We recommend that all pharmacy professionals consider mental health first aid training.
- In England: Mental Health First Aid England
- In Scotland: http://www.smhfa.com
- In Wales: www.mhfa-wales.org
- In Northern Ireland: https://www.aware-ni.org/mental-health-first-aid.html
- In Ireland: www.MHFAIreland.ie
- For an international directory: https://mhfa.com.au/cms/international-mhfa-programs
Non-specialist pharmacy professionals, or mental health pharmacy professionals with limited experience, may also find our two-day Psych 1 course of benefit: Psych 1.