November sees a popular charity event called Movember, when men are encouraged to grow moustaches to raise awareness of men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s suicide.
Movember is a fun event, but it also highlights that men’s health is often an under-serviced area of community health. The Pharmacy Guild of Australia says we need to raise awareness of the need for men to look after their health.
The National Men’s Health Strategy 2020-30 has identified five priority health issues:
- Mental health.
- Chronic conditions.
- Sexual and reproductive health and conditions where men are over-represented.
- Injuries and risk taking.
- Healthy ageing.
The strategy recognises that too often in the past, men have been reluctant to seek help with health issues – and mental health issues in particular – but that culture is changing and men recognise that ‘soldiering on’ does no-one any good.
How can your local chemist help?
Community pharmacies are able to provide advice and confidential counselling for health issues which a man may need help with. Men’s health has often been either neglected or narrowed down to urological issues. but it’s important to note that among the ten most common causes of death among men are heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancers and mental health issues.
Mental health is an area of growing concern for many men, and community pharmacies are playing a role in addressing it.
Pharmacists are in a good position to identify the first signs of mental health deteriorations and start a confidential conversation, as research shows they are one of the most trusted health professionals in the local community.
Community pharmacies are also the most accessible form of healthcare in Australia, which is great news for men seeking advice and help with feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness and other mental health issues.
With 6,000 community pharmacies across the country and many pharmacies open late and on weekends, they can be accessed when and wherever a man needs them.
In the past there was a stigma associated with mental health issues but those days – thankfully – are behind us and no-one entering a pharmacy to discuss depression or other mental health issues should experience judgement. In fact, they will meet trained and compassionate staff, many of whom have undergone training in the Mental Health First Aid as part of their commitment to helping patients.
While community pharmacies help manage patients experiencing mental illness across the broad spectrum, depression is the most common presentation, affecting about one in eight men at some stage during their lives.
The need to recognise and help patients suffering from depression is that it is a leading cause of suicide which in Australia claims some nine lives every day.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, males are three to four times more likely to take their own lives than females.
Males aged 40-49 and over the age of 85 have the highest rates.
An expanding role for community chemists
The House of Representatives Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention report released late last year said, ‘The Committee recommends that the Australian Government evaluate the efficacy of pharmacy mental health training programs and strengthen funding to support an expansion of best practice training in mental health and suicide prevention for all pharmacists and pharmacy staff.’
The report also said, ‘Pharmacists are often the most accessible health professionals the public encounter and pharmacy is among the most trusted professions in Australia. Pharmacists have earned this trust through their competence, demonstrating consistently high standards of skill and care and building strong relationships with the community.’
Here to help
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia says any person with a mental health issue, or anyone who knows of someone who may need help, is encouraged to come and have a chat with their pharmacist. Being able to walk in off the street and speak to a health professional who listens and understands the issues and can provide counselling can be a lifesaver.
With more than 80 per cent of people using the same pharmacy regularly, a community pharmacist may be able to more easily recognise changes in a person’s behaviour and initiate a conversation. Patients also felt more at ease talking to the pharmacists that they already knew and may have been dealing with for their health needs over a long period.