Video Reminds Pharmacy Students to Maintain Mental Health

While pharmacists spend the majority of their time concentrating on patients' well-being, a video from University of Alberta pharmacy students serves as a reminder for peers to look after their own mental health.

While pharmacists spend the majority of their time concentrating on patients’ well-being, a video from University of Alberta pharmacy students serves as a reminder for peers to look after their own mental health.

Third-year pharmacy student Scott Wakeham pitched the idea for the video and developed it with the help of Alberta Pharmacy Students’ Association members.

The main objective was to start a discussion about mental health to break down any stigma related to mental illness, Wakeham told Pharmacy Times. It also drew attention to the resources available to students who need support.

“Mental illness is so extremely stigmatized, even with health care professionals, so the video was intended to get people talking about it and to bring mental health to the forefront of students’ minds,” Wakeham told Pharmacy Times. “A lot of medicine is reactive, but if we sweep mental illness under the rug, don’t talk about it, and allow it to be stigmatized, it could result in tragedy.”

The video mentions 1 in 5 individuals in Canada will experience mental illness at some point in his or her lifetime. In the United States, about 1 in 4 adults experience mental illness in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Nevertheless, the video drives home the fact that everyone has mental health and should take care of it.

Students in the video point out that exercise, power naps, and even watching a movie on Netflix can help relieve stress.

Especially prior to exams, pharmacy students may feel strained as they tackle topics such as anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology. Wakeham noted pharmacy students have to learn the material not just to pass a test, but to be competent in helping a patient.

“It is a ton of pressure to work under, and we are often so busy that we forget to stop, take a break, and think about our own well-being,” Wakeham told Pharmacy Times.

On top of school work, students may be pursuing competitive residencies, fellowships, or other opportunities, which could be hard to juggle with commitments to friends, family, part-time jobs, and volunteer work.

“Being a pharmacy student doesn't leave a lot of time for natural self-reflection and self-care,” Wakeham said.

Wakeham’s video was inspired by a summit he attended called Jack.org, which promotes mental health among youth. One of his takeaways was the thought that even though not everyone has a mental illness, all individuals have mental health.

He compared it to blood pressure, noting everyone has blood pressure, but some have hypertension. Just as you would take preventive measures to reduce your risk of experiencing hypertension, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of depression.

Wakeham said feedback from the video has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It's so incredible to see people openly discussing mental health, and I've seen that it has reminded fellow students to stop and take care of their health during finals,” he told Pharmacy Times.

Wakeham maintained the best way to combat stigma surrounding mental illness is to start a dialogue, even if it feels uncomfortable to talk about it at first.

“There is nothing wrong with talking about your grandmother who has COPD, so why should your brother’s schizophrenia be treated any differently in conversation?” he said. “Start the conversation.”