By Madeleine Mosher
Recently at the pharmacy where she works, Christina Capo was making monthly calls with patients to discuss health concerns.
Capo knew one of the patients she would call was older and sick, which meant they were at-risk for depression. Capo made sure to ask questions during the 20-minute call that would screen the patient for the illness. When the patient gave concerning answers, Capo contacted the patient’s doctor.
Situations like this are why the leadership of Cedarville’s Student National Pharmacists Association (SNAPhA), of which Capo is the president-elect, puts on a monthly event to discuss the truth of mental health, its effects and how culture perceives it.
During these events, which occur the last Tuesday of every month, Alex Goodridge, the org’s mental health chair, gives a presentation on a different mental health illness or concern. Last month, it was chronic mental health problems, so he covered chronic depression, schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder.
After the presentation, they play a movie that deals with that illness or concern. Last month’s was “Rain Man,” which shows savant syndrome. After the movie, Capo and Goodridge lead a discussion with event attendees about the movie’s portrayal of mental health. Was it accurate? How have they experienced mental health issues in their own lives? How can they better spread awareness of this particular concern?
SNAPhA began the Stigma in Cinema event when they received a challenge from the national level of their organization, NAPhA, to put on just one. They’ve held one every month since.
“We kind of immediately fell in love with the idea,” Capo said.
It’s one of the only on-campus events that SNAPhA hosts, which means that more members are able to attend it than other, smaller, off-campus events. Org members that aren’t normally able to connect may be able to at this more accessible event.
It also gives attendees, most of whom are graduate pharmacy students, a change from studying while also educating them on mental health.
According to Capo, even health professionals don’t talk much about mental health. However, according to Goodridge, it’s important that pharmacists be educated on the topic because they see patients much more frequently than a doctor, and patients are often more comfortable with their pharmacist than their doctor. This means they may be more likely to talk with their pharmacist about what’s going on in their life. If pharmacists are familiar with the signs of mental health problems, they’ll notice when their patients are at-risk, and, as Capo did, let their doctors know.
If pharmacists are aware of their patients’ struggles, they can encourage them by checking in with them when they come to pick up prescriptions, Goodridge added.
“They can be that source of light,” Goodridge said.
But events like Stigma in Cinema do more than help prepare pharmacy students for their careers, Goodridge said. They also provide a safe place for them to talk about their own mental health.
Most pharmacy students are in the 18-24 age range, which, according to Goodridge, is notorious for struggling with depression and anxiety. Stigma in Cinema events can provide struggling students with a face of mental health in their community, somewhere they can go with their problems.
At Cedarville, this safe community is strengthened by the small number of regular attendees, Capo said. Currently, each event hosts up to 10 visitors. While Capo would like to see this number grow, she said that the small group creates a family-type environment. When students participate in the after-movie discussion, they’re only sharing with a few people — not a roomful — which means they may be more likely to speak up.
This group also gives students a chance to talk about things they wouldn’t bring up elsewhere.
For instance, Capo has a cousin with autism. Some members of her family disagreed with the way this child was raised, and that disagreement has caused a rift in the family. This matters to Capo, but it’s something she said she’d be unlikely to discuss with just anyone. At Stigma in Cinema, she was able to share this difficult piece of her family history with people who were there to hear about things just like that.
Whether it’s within the community in Cedarville’s School of Pharmacy or in their professional roles, Goodridge said pharmacy students at Cedarville have a unique perspective on mental health. They can view it through the lens of salvation and eternity.
“I don’t have the answers to these things,” he said, “medicine doesn’t have the answers to these things, but Christ does.”
Madeleine Mosher is a junior journalism major and an arts & entertainment co-editor for Cedars. When she’s not watching Amazon Prime, she’s probably at the gym, asking if anyone has food, or falling asleep.