- Boots pharmacists have seen a rise in patients asking for mental health advice since the start of the pandemic and associated lockdowns
- Alongside pharmacist advice and signposting, a range of on-demand mental health services are available via boots.com
Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, Boots Chief Pharmacist Marc Donovan shares his tips on how to talk to friends, family, colleagues and healthcare professionals about mental health and loneliness.
The number of adults experiencing depression and anxiety is still up on pre-pandemic levels, with an estimated 1.6 million people waiting to access mental health support on the NHS. Boots has also seen a rise in patients asking for mental health advice and support in its pharmacies since the start of the pandemic and associated lockdowns.
Boots Chief Pharmacist Marc Donovan, who is also a trained Mental Health First Aider, said: “Unlike many physical illnesses, mental health issues cannot always be seen, but this does not mean that they are not there. Indicators that someone is experiencing mental health issues could include feeling sad or down for an extended period, excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt, withdrawal from friends, family and social activities, and feelings of loneliness and isolation.
“Many people find it uncomfortable talking about their mental health and aren’t sure who to reach out to or how to start a conversation about their mental health. Talking about how you are feeling or talking to those you are concerned about is always going to be a good first step but it is often the hardest. In fact, pharmacists at Boots have said that for many patients that come into the pharmacy to ask for mental health support, it is the first time they have opened up about how they are feeling.
“That is why this Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond, I encourage everyone to talk to each other about how they are feeling.”
Here is Marc’s advice about how to kickstart these conversations:
- “Ask twice. People’s first response to ‘how are you?’ almost always is ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I’m good’. If you are concerned about someone close to you, try asking them how they feel twice which could lead to a more in-depth and honest response.
- “Don’t wait to find the ‘perfect’ moment to open up a conversation. Whether you want to open up about how you are feeling or want to start a conversation with someone else, as long as you and the other person feel comfortable, and the timing and setting is appropriate, it might be worth starting the conversation to avoid delaying it. It is also worthwhile considering initiating the conversation via text message if you think a face-to-face chat could be difficult.
- “Talk about yourself. Opening up about your own feelings or experience of mental health can be an effective way to open a two-way conversation to share experiences. Even sharing a feeling or worry could allow others to feel safe opening up to you in return.
- “Establish or rebuild a connection. Try reaching out to someone you know who might be feeling lonely and make an effort to connect with them. Make regular contact and keep in touch with them or try some new fun activities together to strengthen your connection. It may be difficult for people experiencing loneliness to respond to your friendly contact at first, so be patient and kind.
- “Don’t be afraid to ask healthcare professionals. Many people struggle taking that first step to getting professional help because they do not know where to turn to first or whether their mental health concerns should be discussed with a healthcare professional. I would encourage anyone who is worried to pop in to see their local pharmacist, who can listen to their concerns and signpost to specialist services that may be helpful. Your GP is also there to help you with mental health concerns.”
Boots recently launched a collection of private on-demand digital mental health services that offers patients a range of tools and treatments they can access quickly and conveniently. The help, advice and support that can now be found via boots.com includes talking therapy and access to prescription medicines for those that need it.
The support available includes Boots Online Doctor Depression & Anxiety Treatment, which offersa GP consultation followed by a tailored treatment and support plan and, if appropriate, prescription medicine.
Boots pharmacists continue to offer general health and wellbeing advice to patients and can signpost to appropriate mental health services in person at over 2,200 stores. Over 4,000 Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacists have had extra training to support people affected by cancer and the adverse mental health impact this can have. In addition, all Boots Beauty Specialists also receive empathy training.
 NHS Confederation, 2022