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Raeschell “Shelly” Williams, PharmD, MPH, BCPS, BCPP
Clinical Pharmacy Specialist, Mental Health
South Texas Veterans Health Care System
San Antonio, TX

Fifty-seven collegiate chapters of the American College of Psychiatric Pharmacists (CPNP) submitted reports documenting their efforts during the 2021-2022 academic year. With ongoing COVID restrictions, hybrid learning environments, and national attention on mental health, substance use, and suicide prevention, student pharmacists continue to rise to the occasion to promote well-being and education in their schools and communities.

To get a better understanding of the role of psychiatric pharmacists, sixteen pharmacy schools hosted educational sessions with practicing psychiatric pharmacists to enable students to learn more about their roles, job duties, educational paths, and patient populations. These discussions included topics such as applying for and securing a residency, the day-to-day functions of a psychiatric pharmacist, how to talk about suicide prevention with patients, and motivational interviewing techniques. One pharmacy school utilized its affiliation and proximity to a major hospital to allow chapter members to shadow several psychiatric pharmacists in person to see firsthand what a psychiatric pharmacist could do.

With mental health, self-care, and burnout in the national spotlight in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, student pharmacists rose to the occasion to promote well-being in their schools and communities. Over 90% of collegiate chapters participated in local NAMI walks to promote mental health and fundraise for national organizations. Several pharmacy schools hosted destress rooms during exam times, meditation and mindfulness activities, breathing workshops, and even hosted yoga and meditation teachers to interact with the students. Animals were also welcome, with several schools hosting puppy destress events around exams.

The 2021-2022 academic year had a large focus on suicide prevention for our collegiate chapters. Over half of the collegiate chapters participated in an Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention, affiliated with AFSP. One chapter started its suicide prevention efforts early in the academic year by including suicide prevention cards with resources for students. Additionally, this chapter made a “Tree of Life” cardboard cut-out where students and faculty members could post notes regarding their reasons for being/living and place them on the tree. This idea was a major hit at this school, with over two hundred students and faculty members engaging to show support and encouragement.

Substance use disorders also continued as a focus for many chapters. Several chapters engaged in opioid overdose education and naloxone training. One chapter hosted a schoolwide training for undergraduate students which taught approximately 500 students how to recognize opioid overdose and use naloxone, along with providing take-away naloxone for the attendees. Multiple chapters volunteered at local secondary schools to discuss substance misuse and abuse, with one chapter even partnering with a sober living high school to promote education regarding substance use disorders.

Chapter fundraising allowed CPNP collegiate chapters to show their creativity while raising funds for both local and national organizations. One chapter hosted a “Pie a Teacher” fundraiser to raise money for a local domestic abuse treatment center. Selling custom T-shirts, lapel pins, tumblers, and stickers, and hosting bake sales were popular methods by numerous chapters to raise funds for local initiatives while also increasing awareness of mental health. Several students also received financial support to attend the AAPP annual meeting, with twenty chapters having student pharmacists represented at the meeting in San Antonio.

This academic year, our collegiate chapters remain hard at work promoting mental health and wellbeing, educating on substance use disorders and risk mitigation strategies, and finding innovative ways to connect with others both in their schools and their communities. With dedicated and creative student pharmacists pushing the envelope to promote mental health nationwide, the future of psychiatric pharmacy is bright. AAPP members should be very proud of their collegiate chapters and excited to see what students will accomplish in the 2022-2023 academic year in their first official year as AAPP Collegiate Chapters!

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