UK and Ireland survey of MPharm student and staff experiences of mental health curricula, with a focus on Mental Health First Aid

H. C. Gorton, H. Macfarlane, R. Edwards, S. Farid, E. Garner, M. Mahroof, S. Rasul, D. Keating, Hadar Zaman, J. Scott, I. Maidment, J. Strawbridge

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Background: One in four people experience a mental health problem every year and improving mental health care is an international priority. In the course of their work, pharmacists frequently encounter people with mental health problems. The experience of mental health teaching, including Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training, in undergraduate pharmacy (MPharm) students in the UK and Ireland is not well documented. Students’ viewpoints, contextualised with curricular overviews provided by staff, were analysed to understand their experience. Methods: An anonymous, online questionnaire was distributed to MPharm students and staff in the UK and Ireland. Students were asked closed questions regarding their course and exposure to MHFA, which were analysed using descriptive statistics. Open questions were included to enable explanations and these data were used to contextualise the quantitative findings. One member of staff from each university was invited to answer a modified staff version of the questionnaire, to provide a curriculum overview and staff perspective. Results: 232 students and 13 staff, from 22 universities, responded. Three-quarters of students did not agree with the statement that ‘mental health was embedded throughout the MPharm’. Most students (80.6%) stated that they were taught neuropharmacology whilst 44.8% stated that their course included communicating with people about their mental health. One-third (33.2%) of students stated that their degree ‘adequately prepared them to help people with their mental health’. Twenty-six students (11.6%) had completed MHFA training of which 89% would endorse inclusion of this within the MPharm. Of those who had not completed the training, 81% expressed a desire to do so. Those who completed MHFA training self-reported greater preparedness than those who did not, but student numbers were small. Conclusions: Mental health teaching for pharmacy undergraduates is more focussed on theoretical aspects rather than applied skills. MHFA was viewed by students as one way to enhance skill application. The association of the increased self-reported preparedness of those who completed MHFA could be confounded by a positive environmental cultural. MPharm programmes need sufficient focus on real-world skills such as communication and crisis response, to complement the fundamental science.

Original languageEnglish
Article number73
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2021


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