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Mental Health First Aid crisis role-plays between pharmacists and simulated patients with lived experience: a thematic analysis of debrief.

PURPOSE: Healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, can recognise and assist people experiencing mental health crises. Despite this, little is known about how pharmacists assist and engage with people presenting with signs and symptoms of mental health crises. This study aimed to (i) examine pharmacists' mental health crisis assessment language during simulated patient role-plays (SPRPs) and (ii) explore participants' experiences of participating in SPRPs of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) scenarios.

METHODS: Fifty-nine MHFA-trained pharmacy staff participated in audio-recorded SPRPs of three crisis scenarios enacted by a mental health consumer educator (MHCE). Post-SPRP, pharmacy staff members (including role-playing and observing participants), engaged in reflective debrief discussions with the facilitator and MHCEs. Debrief discussions were transcribed verbatim and analysed using inductive thematic analysis and suicide assessment language was explored.

RESULTS: The majority of role-playing pharmacists asked about suicidal ideation using appropriate, direct language (n = 8). Qualitative analyses of debrief discussions yielded four themes: (i) Relationship with the consumer, (ii) Verbal and non-verbal communication, (iii) Challenges with crisis assessment, which included difficulties associated with initiating conversations about suicide and mania, and (iv) Reflective learning.

CONCLUSION: While pharmacists demonstrated the appropriate suicide assessment language post-MHFA training, pharmacists felt uncomfortable initiating conversations around suicide and lacked confidence during crisis assessments. SPRPs provided pharmacists with opportunities to reflect on and practice MHFA skills in a safe learning environment. Future research exploring how MHFA training and SPRPs impact pharmacists' ability to provide MHFA in real-world settings is warranted.

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