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Jerry McKee, PharmD, MS, BCPP

The CPNP Foundation has taken a proactive role on the issue of eliminating stigma around mental health diseases. Clearly evidenced at the recent CPNP Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, the Stigma Free campaign outlines that we can (and must) all work together to shift the social and systemic barriers for those living with mental health conditions. Mental illness affects tens of millions of people in the United States each year, and overall, only about half of those affected receive treatment. For patients with mental illness, there are many barriers to care, including lack of access, lack of accurate disease state information, limited financial resources, inadequate transportation, and stigma. Patients with mental illness may be stigmatized, even by healthcare professionals. Such bias can serve as a barrier to patients receiving optimal care, hinder them from realizing their potential, and be detrimental to their sense of well-being. People suffering from mental illnesses perceive the stigma that exists related to their disorders; the discomfort felt by healthcare professionals and the general public in interacting with people with mental illness can be an additional barrier to care. It is essential that everyone, including pharmacists and other healthcare professionals, be aware of any biases they might have toward patients with mental illness and make an effort to inform themselves on these conditions with factual information based on research findings.

As another aspect of the StigmaFree campaign, the CPNP Foundation, in collaboration with sponsor Creative Educational Concepts, made a bold move at the recent annual meeting to take steps to eliminate stigma, including sponsoring an inaugural 8 hour Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training forum, primarily targeting pharmacy student members, to build skills to help those who may be in a mental health crisis or who may be developing a mental illness. CPNP members and certified MHFA Instructors Talia Puzantian, PharmD, BCPP, Tom Smith, PharmD, BCPP, and Jerry McKee, PharmD, MS, BCPP led the forum of sixty-three participants (58 students/5 pharmacists) from across the country. The curriculum is interactive and active learning scenarios are pharmacy-case based. Initial feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive. Attendees reported that the course was helpful and informative and said the "course has better prepared me for the work that I do professionally."

The workshop was supported and subsidized by the CPNP Foundation and Creative Educational Concepts. Following the event, participants received a certificate of completion from Mental Health First Aid USA acknowledging certification which is valid for 3 years. The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) has recently made it possible for pharmacists to obtain 8 hours of continuing education credit for participation. More information regarding MHFA may be obtained at http://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/cs/.

Reducing stigma is an important step in increasing access to, and quality of care for, persons with mental illness, as is equipping healthcare professionals with the tools and language to assist members of our community experiencing mental health symptoms or crises. It is clear that MHFA training can be an important addition to educational programs aimed at optimizing patient care and outcomes as well as increasing the job satisfaction of the community pharmacy healthcare professional.

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