Pharmacy professionals’ preparedness to use Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) behaviors

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Pharmacists, Mental Health, Suicide, Emotions, Depression, Anxiety, First Aid, Pharmaceutical Services, Surveys and Questionnaires, United States


Background: There is a need to train healthcare professionals to provide first aid to people experiencing a mental health crisis. Research testing the association between Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training and the use of MHFA behaviors could provide evidence of program effectiveness in the pharmacy setting.

Objectives: The objectives of this study were to measure the preparedness of pharmacy professionals to function in a MHFA role, and compare preparedness and the use of MHFA behaviors based on demographic characteristics.

Methods: Pharmacists and student pharmacists attended MHFA training under a multi-state pharmacy initiative in 2018. An anonymous electronic survey was administered to 227 participants using 4 contacts in May to June, 2019. The survey evaluated if participants had recommended MHFA to others, their preparedness to engage in MHFA behaviors (13 items), and their frequency of performing a set of MHFA behaviors (7 items). Descriptive statistics, bivariate analysis, and ANOVA were used to describe the sample and compare these variables across groups.

Results: The analysis was based on 96 responses (42.3%). Almost all respondents (96%) had recommended MHFA training to others. Respondents reported that the training program prepared them to provide a range of MHFA behaviors for multiple mental health conditions, particularly for depression and anxiety. Participants most often reported asking about a distressed mood and listening non-judgmentally. Almost half of participants had asked someone if they were considering suicide and a similar percent had referred someone considering suicide to resources. Those reporting the highest levels of preparedness engaged in significantly more MHFA behaviors than those with lower levels of preparedness (p=0.017). Preparedness and use of MHFA behaviors were not significantly associated with respondent demographic characteristics.

Conclusion: These data suggest that pharmacy professionals who had MHFA training felt prepared to engage in MHFA and many used behaviors like asking about suicide and making referrals since being trained in MHFA. Research is warranted to better understand what makes someone feel maximally prepared to use MHFA behaviors compared to lower feelings of preparedness.


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