Cold comfort: The Christmas period can be isolating for many

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Cold comfort

The festive season can be a stressful time for most of us and it’s even harder for those struggling with mental health. The combination of work pressure, money concerns, feelings of loneliness, late nights and higher-than-usual alcohol consumption can lead to a spike in mental health issues.

I’ve seen such problems rise significantly during my years in clinical practice and while I have a reasonable understanding of different mental health conditions and pharmacological treatment, I felt that I was ill-equipped to help people coming in to the pharmacy needing extra support.

One Saturday I was faced with a patient whose depression was in crisis. She was suicidal and, although I listened, gave her medicines advice and signposted her to additional support, the experience left me feeling inadequate and triggered my attendance on a mental health first aid (MHFA) course.

MHFA England are on a mission to train one in 10 of the population in these essential skills, which ensures that developing knowledge and skills in mental health is not only the remit of healthcare professionals.

Indeed, this is being taken seriously by the Government, with the recent announcement that the Department of Health and Public Health England will launch an online campaign to train one million people
in basic mental health ‘first aid’ skills.

In March 2017, an alarming report, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation, revealed that just 13% of Britons are living with high levels of positive mental health, and 65% said they have experienced a mental health problem at some point in their lives.

Furthermore, mixed anxiety and depression has been estimated to cause one fifth of days lost from work in Britain. MHFA England is raising awareness in the workplace so that we can better look after our own mental health, as well as that of our colleagues. Enhanced support for mental wellbeing in the workplace can save UK businesses up to £8 billion a year.

In my next column, I will tell you about the course I attended and why it was so important but, in the meantime, some final festive advice from your pharmacy columnist. Keeping active and physically healthy over the festive season will boost your mental health. Also, avoid rich foods, too many late nights and excessive alcohol; turn off emails, get plenty of fresh air and, above all, moderate family games of Monopoly!     


Deborah Evans is Managing Director of Pharmacy Complete, a specialist consultancy enabling a healthier future for pharmacy. Go to