How pharmacists can help patients with depression

Depression is now the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 29. But no one is safe from the mental anguish and inability to manage daily life that depression can cause – around the world; it affects people of every age. It can destroy relationships and make it difficult and sometimes impossible to earn a living.

About 8% of Canadians are likely to experience one major episode of depression in their lifetime. And tragically, almost 50% of those who say they have suffered from depression and anxiety also say they have not sought help.

What is depression?

Depression is an illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks.

In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following symptoms:

• a loss of energy;

• a change in appetite;

• sleeping more or less;

• anxiety;

• reduced concentration;

• indecisiveness;

• restlessness;

• feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and

• thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Treatment for depression

Treatment for depression often includes prescription medication as well as cognitive behavioural and interpersonal therapies. As with all treatment plans, effectiveness depends on your adherence to your plan. Without expert advice, patients can be tempted to abandon treatment before it has a chance to work, or even because it is working and they feel better, putting them at high risk of relapse.

If you or a family member have depression, it’s also important to be aware that it can make it more difficult to take other treatments prescribed by your doctor. Many studies have shown that people with depression are less likely to take their medication for heart disease, COPD and other chronic illnesses. In fact, a RAND Corporation study found that those with depression were 76% more likely not to be taking their medications as directed, compared to those without depression. As a result, people with depression tend to have worse treatment outcomes, and are more likely to see their health worsen over time.

If you are having a difficult time adhering to your treatment plan as directed, speak with your pharmacist as soon as possible. If cost is a problem, he or she may be able to talk to your doctor about switching you to a similar but more cost-effective medication. If you’re experiencing uncomfortable side effects, your pharmacist can help you reduce or manage them or – if that isn’t possible – talk to your doctor about different treatment options.

Read: Understanding high-cost, specialty drugs and your options

For people with depression, pharmacists can be an invaluable first line of support, education and information. As accessible health professionals, they are often available during hours and in locations when others are not.

In the case of our Express Scripts Canada Pharmacy®, for example, a pharmacist is always available to members by telephone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so it’s easy to reach out from the convenience, comfort and privacy of your home.

Read: A day in the life of an Express Scripts Canada pharmacist

Pharmacists are pharmaceutical treatment specialists, so talking to them about any issues you may be experiencing with your prescriptions can be an important step on the path to wellness.