Pharmacists are at higher risk than the general population of committing suicide, a fact that may be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a UC San Diego study released Friday that focuses on mental health and burnout within pharmacists. health care professions.
Researchers from the University of California Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the UC San Diego School of Medicine found that pharmacists commit suicide at rates of about 20 per 100,000, compared to 12 per 100,000 in the population general. The study results are published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association on Friday.
The numbers are based on data from 2003 to 2018, compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System. The study authors expect the numbers to be even higher in the United States. following years due to the additional stressors of the pandemic, and are currently evaluating more recent data.
“If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that there’s a tipping point for healthcare professionals,” said Kelly C. Lee, one of the study’s authors and a professor of clinical pharmacy at UCSD.
The study identified the most common means of suicide in this population, with 49.8% of cases involving firearms, 29.4% poisoning, and 13% suffocation. Firearm use was similar among pharmacists and the general population, but poisoning from benzodiazepines, antidepressants and opioids was more common among pharmacists, the researchers found.
Contributing factors outlined in the report include a history of mental illness and a high prevalence of workplace problems. Work-related problems are the most common feature of suicides in the health care professions.
Lee said the labor issues reflect significant changes in the pharmaceutical industry in recent years, with more pharmacists employed by hospitals and retail chains than small private pharmacies were more common in the past. The responsibilities of a pharmacist have also grown considerably, with increased volumes of pharmaceuticals to dispense and increased demands to administer vaccinations and other health care services.
“Pharmacists have a lot more responsibilities now, but they’re expected to do it with the same resources and compensation that they had 20 years ago,” Lee said. “And with tight control from state and federal regulatory boards, pharmacists are expected to perform in a fast-paced environment with perfect precision. It’s hard for any human being to keep up with that pressure.”
Lee said future research will further assess which workplace issues have the biggest impact and how the field can best respond. Meanwhile, she advised pharmacists to encourage help-seeking behaviors among themselves and their colleagues.
“Mental health is still highly stigmatized, and often even more so among health professionals,” Lee said. “Although we should know better, there is such an expectation of appearing strong, capable and trustworthy in our roles that we have a hard time admitting any vulnerability.”
“It’s time to take a look at what our jobs are doing to us and how we can better support each other, or we’re going to lose our best pharmacists,” he said.
City News Service contributed to this article.