What can pharmacies do to improve mental health care?

What can pharmacies do to improve mental health care?

Today (January 28) is Bell Let's Talk Day; a day for conversations about mental health in Canada. Today Bell will donate 5¢ for every text, call, #BellLetsTalk tweet, social media video view and use of the Bell Let's Talk Facebook frame or Snapchat filter.

Let's talk about the role of pharmacies in mental health care and about the free pharmacy services that can make it easier for you to get the help you need.

Mental illness affects all Canadians.

  • 1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental illness or addiction problem in any given year.¹

  • Mental illness is the leading cause of disability in Canada.²

  • Of Canadians older than 15 years who reported a mental health care need in the past year, one in three stated that their needs were not fully met.³

  • On average, 11 Canadians are lost to suicide each day and many more experience thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.⁴ 


Every Canadian has either personally experienced mental illness or has a partner, parent, child, friend, or coworker who has experienced mental illness. Yet many people report that they are not getting the care they need. We believe that health care needs an all-hands-on-deck approach to be successful. That means family doctors, mental health specialists, schools, workplaces, communities, and yes, pharmacies need to do more to address the current gaps in care.


So what can pharmacies do to improve mental health care?

  1. Accessibility. There's no waiting period for an appointment to see your pharmacist. Pharmacists are the most accessible health care providers in Canada.

  2. Medication Compliance. People stop taking medication or take their medication inconsistently for many reasons.⁵ Unfortunately non-adherence to medication is a major cause of mental illness relapse. Pharmacies can offer services that help people stick with medication therapies long-term.

  3. Community Resources. Pharmacists are well positioned to identify people at risk and connect them with mental health resources in their community.

  4. Overdose Prevention. The opioid crisis is a complex health and social issue that has had devastating consequences. The vast majority (94%) of opioid overdoses happen by accident.⁶ Naloxone is a drug that can reverse an overdose and is available for free in Canada. Pharmacies provide free naloxone kits and can do more to educate their patients on the signs of an overdose.


Let's build a system that works for you.

DrugSmart offers a wide range of free services designed to make it easier for you to manage your health, which, of course, includes your mental health. We can help you get a system in place for when you most need assistance.

  1. Virtual Care. Talk to a DrugSmart pharmacist by phone or video chat or connect with a doctor from home. There is no charge to Ontario residents for the virtual doctor visit – it's completely covered by OHIP.
  2. Medication ReviewIf you struggle to follow a complex regimen of medications or are concerned about drug interactions, ask your pharmacist for a review of your medications. OHIP covers medication reviews under certain circumstances. If you don’t qualify, DrugSmart will do an initial review free of charge.
  3. SmartPackSimplify your life and set fewer reminders on your phone! Get your medication and supplements delivered in one, organized package.
  4. Free Delivery. Get your prescription medications, over-the-counter products and your everyday essentials delivered to your home or office for free.
  5. Naloxone KitsNaloxone can temporarily reverse an opioid (e.g. fentanyl) overdose. Learn how to recognize an overdose and use naloxone to reverse it. ​You are eligible for a free naloxone kit if you are a current opioid user; a past user at risk of using again; or a family member or friend able to help someone at risk of an opioid overdose. At DrugSmart, we believe naloxone kits should be a part of every household first aid kit.

If any or all of these services would help you, speak to your pharmacist or transfer your prescriptions to get started.


A meaningful conversation cannot be one-sided.

We said at the beginning of the post that this was a mental health conversation, and we want to hear from you! Leave a comment to let us know what more we can do to better help you and those you love.

Follow us to stay up to date with #BeDrugSmart tips!

Where to get help if you or someone you love is contemplating suicide:

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (Phone) | 45645 (Text) | (Chat)

In Quebec (French): Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (Phone), Live Chat counselling at


  1. Smetanin et al. (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041. Prepared for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Toronto: RiskAnalytica.

  2. Mental Health Commission of Canada (2014). Why investing in mental health will contribute to Canada’s economic prosperity and to the sustainability of our health care system. Retrieved from

  3. Sunderland & Findlay (2013). Perceived need for mental health care in Canada: Results from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.82-003-X.

  4. Public Health Canada:



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