Reports of depression, anxiety, and stress have risen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Reports of depression, anxiety, and stress have risen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In a February 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey, 4 in 10 Americans reported having symptoms of an anxiety disorder or depression compared to 1 in 10 In January 2019.1
The sharp rise in adverse mental health symptoms has led to increased use of behavioral health medications. This, in turn, has led to more patient questions and concerns and expanded the need for monitoring to ensure these drugs do not interact poorly with other medications.
The influence of the population varies
Over the past year and a half, certain segments of the population have experienced more mental health consequences than others. Social distancing and distance education have significantly impacted the lives of young people, who report higher levels of mental health symptoms than other age groups. According to data from the King Faisal Foundation, 25% of young people said they started or increased their drug use during the pandemic, compared to 13% of all adults. The absence of personal school, sports and other recreational activities has also greatly changed the lives of young people and their parents, making it difficult for them to cope.
Racial and ethnic minorities, essential workers and unpaid adult caregivers also reported disproportionately worse mental health symptoms, increased drug use, and increased suicidal ideation, according to a King Faisal Foundation report.1
Although rates of COVID-19 are generally improving, history has shown that mental health losses from epidemics and other disasters can persist beyond the physical impact. For example, studies show that previous outbreaks caused an increase in mental health concerns for health care workers for up to 3 years after the outbreak itself.
Pharmacists play an important role in helping patients manage behavioral health medications. Throughout the pandemic, pharmacists have been the most accessible healthcare professionals. She was readily available to patients to answer daily questions and provide accurate guidance.
Patients often worry about how over-the-counter medications will interact with their medication regimen. Pharmacists can answer questions as well as advise patients when they need to seek medical advice or further follow-up from their primary care physician. They can also instruct patients about what to expect from the medication, such as whether something is a common adverse effect or a more serious adverse effect that should not be ignored.
Given access, time and resources, pharmacists have the clinical knowledge to perform Pharmacotherapeutic Management (MTM) services and pharmacy reviews to provide patients with optimal healthcare and cost-saving solutions. They can assess the risks of multiple medications, which refers to the regular use of five or more medications or a visit to several doctors.
The pharmacist is also the link between the patient’s voice, the prescriber, and the insurance company. Pharmacists often find themselves advocating for a patient when an initially prescribed medication is either not covered by insurance or results in intolerable side effects. Thus, pharmacists can also explain to the patient in detail why an alternative medication is the best option.
Pharmacists are required to continue their education and keep abreast of new drugs on the market. Pharmacists can also pursue additional education and residency in psychiatry, which leads to greater collaboration with the prescriber and nurses with the goal of achieving the best patient health outcomes.
Farkhanda Najib, Doctor, He is a customer relationship pharmacist, vaccine coordinator, and consulting pharmacist for Community Care Rx, a full-service, long-term care pharmacy with offices in Hempstead, NY and Totowa, NJ.
Panchal N, Kamal R, Cox C, Garfield R. Effects of COVID-19 on mental health and substance use. Kaiser Family Foundation; February 10, 2021. Accessed November 18, 2021. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and- substance – use/