Suicide prevention is a global priority. Despite the focus on primary care in suicide prevention, little is known about the contributory role of community pharmacists and nothing about the role of the wider community pharmacy team in this area. We aimed to explore the current and potential role of community pharmacy teams in self-harm and suicide prevention.
We conducted one-to-one semi-structured qualitative interviews with community pharmacy staff (pharmacists, pre-registration pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, dispensing/pharmacy assistants, delivery drivers) in the North West of England, UK. We identified themes from the interview transcripts through an iterative process of inductive thematic analysis.
We conducted twenty-five interviews with community pharmacy staff. Many described examples of helping those who were contemplating suicide or self-harm. No participants had received suicide prevention training. We identified six themes. The first two themes (i) Relationship with Patient and (ii) Pharmacy environment were seen as facilitators, which, if supported by (iii) Training, could underpin the final three themes: (iv) Opportunities for contact, (v) Facilitated referral pathway and (v) Restricting access to means. The distinct lack of training should be overcome with evidence-informed training. Referral pathways should be clear and enable direct and accessible referral by community pharmacy teams. There are opportunities for existing pharmacy services and schemes to be adapted to maximise suicide and self-harm prevention activities. Pharmacy teams did not identify themselves to have a clear role in restricting access to medication.
Pharmacy teams already support patients in relation to self-harm and suicide, often relying on their personal experience in the absence of formal training. With the implementation of evidence-informed training and clear referral pathways, this could be done in a more effectively.