Mental illness and stigma

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1. Introduction

1.1 Mental illness and stigma

Inequalities in health services delivery and utilization for people with mental illness has been widely documented.1 Subsequently this results in poorer outcomes for this population in regard to general health, such as circulatory diseases, mortality from natural causes, and access to interventions .2-4 Several issues have been identified as contributing to these disparities in health service access and delivery, including stigma.5-6Stigma associated with mental illness has been defined as negative attitudes formed on the basis of prejudice or misinformation that are triggered by markers of illness.1-5Illness markers include atypical behaviours, the types of medication prescribed and noticeable medication related adverse effects.5-7These markers allow for the continuation of stigma concerning people with mental illness, but they also allow community pharmacists to identify patients with a broad range of what are often unaddressed health related needs.1 Behavioural and mental disorders are estimated to account for 12% of the global burden of diseases. Mental health related medications account for >10% of all medications prescribed by general medical practitioners8, therefore, it is an inescapable fact that community pharmacists must interact with patients suffering from mental health problems.9 Mental illness is relevant to practising pharmacists who can play vital roles in the treatment of patients with mental illness.10 Throughout the latter half of the previous century, the diagnosis and pharmacological treatment of mental illness improved radically.9 1990-2000 was proclaimed the �Decade of the Brain.

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to promote the study of disorders of the brain, including mental illnesses.11 Despite these advances, the stigma associated with mental illness remains a compelling negative feature in society.10 Unfortunately health care professionals, including pharmacists are not invulnerable to such harmful attitudes.9 Pharmacists attitudes toward mental illness and the mentally ill are extremely important because they can affect their professional interactions and clinical decisions.12-13 In addition, they could ultimately affect the delivery of pharmaceutical care which has been defined as the pharmacist assuming the responsibility for positive patient outcomes.14 Activities like medication counselling and monitoring of therapy have been documented to improve both satisfaction and adherence to drug therapy in patients with mental illness.15 It has been pointed out that pharmacists must become more involved in such activities for patients with mental illness.9

1.2 Optimising the use of medications for mental illness

Community care offers many advantages over institutional care; however, it can place extra demands on family, friends and primary health care practitioners.16 Health professionals have identified people with mental illness as the most challenging patients to manage.8 The quality and accessibility of community care for people with mental illness needs to be improved.17 The appropriate use of medicines plays an imperative role in the effective management of mental illness, nonetheless, there is evidence that psychotropic medicines are often used inappropriately.18-19 Elderly people are especially susceptible to the effects of psychotropic medicines,

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