Improve Quality Use of Medicines to improve mental health care: report

22 November 2023


Pharmacists can play a greater role in helping patients manage their mental health through the quality use of medicines, a new report from the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) has found.  


The sixth edition of PSA’s flagship Medicine Safety series, Medicine Safety: Mental Health Care report highlights opportunities for pharmacists to better support Australians using medicines to treat mental health conditions, including improving access to care and investing in quality use of medicines services at critical points of care.  


Key report stats: 


  • People with severe mental health conditions have poorer physical health than the general community and have a 12–16 year shorter life expectancy. 
  • 18% of Australians use medicines to treat a mental health condition. 
  • Antidepressants were involved in 31% of medicine-related deaths due to overdose, and antipsychotics in 17% of medicine-related deaths due to overdose.
  • 1 in 4 Australians are taking a medicine that would not be recommended for them based on the individual genetic variation of their drug metabolising enzymes.
  • Medicine changes are frequent in mental health facilities, with an average of 10 changes per admission. 
  • Over 40% of mental health facilities do not have any pharmaceutical handover at discharge.


PSA’s recommendations from the Medicine Safety: Mental Health Care report support better medicine management and wrap-around mental health care to improve quality of life for Australians living with a mental health condition. 


Quotes attributable to PSA National President Dr Fei Sim FPS:


“The evidence presented in this report shows that, as a nation, we need to do better.


“Wherever medicines are used there is a risk of medicine misadventure, which is exactly what this report has found.   


“We know that the prevalence of mental ill health is on the rise, and more people are using medicines to manage a mental health condition.  


“Too often we hear of people stopping treatment altogether because of the effects of these medicines, because they make them unwell. This is where we believe there is significant opportunity for investment in pharmacist services to help support the safe and effective use of medicines.


“People using medicines in their mental health care need better access to the expertise of pharmacists at all stages of management – in hospitals, in community pharmacies, in private clinics and across the whole spectrum of care.  


“Our recommendations focus on addressing specific gaps in the provision of comprehensive health care and challenge the ‘set-and-forget’ paradigm that people using mental health medicines too often experience.  


“From implementing a mental health screening program in community pharmacies, to formalising transition of care pharmacist services to reduce the risk of medicine-related harm when transferring from hospital to home, pharmacists can and should be part of a collaborative, multidisciplinary and person-centred approach to mental health care. 


“This is about ensuring patients have the support they need to get the most out of their medicines safely and effectively.


Quotes attributable to Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention and Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health, Emma McBride MP:


“The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) should be commended on the launch of their most recent medicine safety report, Medicine Safety: Mental Health Care.


“This is a timely report on the importance of medication safety in mental health given the prevalence of common mental health disorders and the medications often prescribed as part of treatment and care.


“The report also highlights the vital role pharmacists play – across settings – to improve safety and importantly reduce harm.


“As a pharmacist who worked in acute adult inpatient services I know this report will be influential as we work together to improve patient care.”


The Medicine Safety: Mental Health Care report and PSA’s recommendations are available at https://www.psa.org.au/advocacy/working-for-our-profession/medicine-safety/mental_health/  



Media contact:   Georgia Clarke   M: 0480 099 798  E: georgia.clarke@psa.org.au