Support mental health through community outreach
3 reasons to focus on outreach about mental health and 6 ways to do it
Common outreach priorities
When you engage in marketing, promotion and outreach, what is your typical focus?
Most pharmacy outreach tends to focus on improving patients’ physical health. Outreach emphasizes topics like:
- Making sure prescriptions are filled and refilled, through programs like med sync
- Managing common diseases such as heart disease and diabetes
- Preventing illness by getting flu shots or other vaccines
- Providing OTC products for cough and cold as well as supplements
You communicate these offerings through outreach to patients, providers, employers and the media.
This May, consider thinking differently
May is Mental Health Awareness Month (also termed Mental Health Month). It has been observed in the U.S. since 1949, with a purpose of raising awareness to educate the public about mental illness.
An idea: use your outreach efforts this month to focus on mental health.
3 reasons to focus on mental health
You may view mental health as too sensitive to mention in outreach efforts. However, here are three reasons why you should make mental health an outreach priority this May:
- Mental health affects your patients. Mental illness accounts for more disability than any other illness, including cancer and heart disease. Around 50% of Americans experience mental health issues in their life and about 25% of adults have a mental illness each year.1
Each day you see patients with mental health challenges.
- Mental health is ignored. There are huge media efforts surrounding diseases like breast cancer and public health matters like getting flu shots. But mental health is rarely discussed.
Too little attention is paid to mental health.
- Focusing on mental health is an opportunity for your pharmacy to:
- Shine a light on a topic that touches so many people
- Help many patients feel more comfortable and cared for
- Elevate an important topic that needs greater attention
- Be seen as a knowledgeable, compassionate provider of care in your community
- Be distinguished as having courage and compassion to support this critical topic
Take the lead in demonstrating support for mental health.
What your pharmacy can do
There are several ways your pharmacy can engage in community outreach to raise awareness about mental health. Here are six ideas for outreach in your community:
- Incorporate mental health into all forms of outreach. In May, mention your support for mental health in all of your outreach and marketing efforts. Highlight mental health on your website and in social media. Call out mental health as part of provider outreach or if interacting with employers or the media. Make it a key part of your message.
- Go lime green. Wear a lime green ribbon — the color for mental health awareness — at your store and have staff members do so. Those who know what this color stands for will be appreciative. Many who don’t know will ask, which will prompt a conversation.
- Pick national mental health organizations to support. You might choose one organization focused on mental health to highlight for the month, or a different organization each week. Describe the organization’s mission and explain why you are supporting this cause, which might include a personal connection. You can also distribute literature about this organization and do a fundraiser with proceeds supporting your chosen organization.
| Examples of organizations focused on mental health
For more groups see Leading Mental Health Charities and Organizations
- Form local collaborations. Most national organizations have local chapters. Identify a local mental health organization that you support and approach the organization about collaborating. You can raise awareness by distributing information. Promote and publicize this organization and relationship.
- Organize and host a local event. Host a speaker or panel discussion on a mental health issue. Invite a speaker from a mental health organization or a mental health provider. Or, show a relevant movie. The National Alliance on Mental Illness and Sundance Institute provide lists of movies dealing with mental illness.
- Promote mental health hotlines. Prominently display a list of hotlines at your pharmacy, have cards with phone number that patients can take, and post these hotline numbers on social media. See the list of hotlines below and access it here.
During Mental Health Month, through outreach your pharmacy can lead the way in raising awareness of mental health and mental illness. By doing this, you will help change the conversation about mental health and will ultimately benefit patients. Showing your support is just one more way to build credibility as a trusted leader who addresses the most important health-related issues in your community.