Maureen Brin, pharmacist from Prince George, reflects on how stigma can hinder her patients' road to recovery.
Combating Mental Health Stigma: Pharmacists Put Patients First
One in five Canadians lives with mental health problems, mental disorder and addiction. From October 1 – 7, 2018, the BCPhA will run a public awareness campaign designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the realities of mental health issues and the stigma that comes with them. The campaign will align with Canada’s national Mental Illness Awareness Week, coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health.
Prince George pharmacist Maureen Brin knows all too well about stigma and how it hinders her patients’ health and recovery. “We’ve got a lot of marginalized patients with mental health issues and addictions, which goes hand in hand with the downtown core. They’re people and you just need to treat them that way.” A pharmacist for more than 30 years, Brin knows her community well. Even during the pharmacy’s busiest times, she gives her undivided attention to every patient, ensuring his or her needs are met.
Dr. Basia Hamata works next door to Brin as a physician at Blue Pine Primary Health Care Clinic, and often refers her patients to Brin’s pharmacy. Many of the clinic’s patients have mental health and addiction diagnoses, further complicated by homelessness and other social determinants of health. “Maureen has conversations with people, cares about what goes on in their lives – a lot of our patients take her advice seriously,” says Dr. Hamata. “They admire her.”
Rodney, one of Maureen Brin's patients at the Prince George pharmacy, feels at home.
Rodney, one of Brin’s patients that frequently goes to the pharmacy, says, “I get so low. When I come into the pharmacy, they notice it right away and can tell something is wrong. They say, Rodney, go see the doctor and I do. I like coming here. It just makes me feel good.”
Maureen Brin reflects on the suicide prevention training she received as instinctual.
While integrated health care is key in supporting each patient’s health and recovery, Brin takes her treatment one step further by connecting with her patients through compassion. Reflecting on her training in suicide prevention, Brin felt those were tough conversations to have, especially as a pharmacist. Her instincts would kick in, asking how she could keep patients safe until they get the proper help they need.
Glen, a patient, says Prince George pharmacist Maureen Brin, makes a difference. "I feel she is the people's champ".
Glen, a patient, says it is important to feel like any other person. “For me, she really helped me a lot. I feel she is the people’s champ. I really do.”
Pharmacists interact with patients on opioid treatment on a daily basis and are the link to patients and their whole health-care team.
Brin’s level of care is supported by colleagues working in similar environments. “When you’re working with someone with substance use disorders, take them at face value and get to know them on a day-to-day basis, which is often supported by the medications they are taking such as methadone or Suboxone,” says Robert Pammett, a research and development pharmacist in Northern Health’s primary care and assistant professor with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UBC. “You get to assess how the medication is working and how they are handling it on a frequent basis. It’s not only important to the pharmacist but also important to pass that information on to the clinic and help them assess how the treatment is working.”