UK and Ireland survey of MPharm student and staff experiences of mental health curricula, with a focus on Mental Health First Aid

H. C. Gorton*, H. Macfarlane, R. Edwards, S. Farid, E. Garner, M. Mahroof, S. Rasul, D. Keating, H. Zaman, J. Scott, I. Maidment, J. Strawbridge

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: One in four people experience a mental health problem every year and improving mental health care is an international priority. In the course of their work, pharmacists frequently encounter people with mental health problems. The experience of mental health teaching, including Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training, in undergraduate pharmacy (MPharm) students in the UK and Ireland is not well documented. Students’ viewpoints, contextualised with curricular overviews provided by staff, were analysed to understand their experience.

Methods: An anonymous, online questionnaire was distributed to MPharm students and staff in the UK and Ireland. Students were asked closed questions regarding their course and exposure to MHFA, which were analysed using descriptive statistics. Open questions were included to enable explanations and these data were used to contextualise the quantitative findings. One member of staff from each university was invited to answer a modified staff version of the questionnaire, to provide a curriculum overview and staff perspective.

Results: 232 students and 13 staff, from 22 universities, responded. Three-quarters of students did not agree with the statement that ‘mental health was embedded throughout the MPharm’. Most students (80.6%) stated that they were taught neuropharmacology whilst 44.8% stated that their course included communicating with people about their mental health. One-third (33.2%) of students stated that their degree ‘adequately prepared them to help people with their mental health’. Twenty-six students (11.6%) had completed MHFA training of which 89% would endorse inclusion of this within the MPharm. Of those who had not completed the training, 81% expressed a desire to do so. Those who completed MHFA training self-reported greater preparedness than those who did not, but student numbers were small.

Conclusions: Mental health teaching for pharmacy undergraduates is more focussed on theoretical aspects rather than applied skills. MHFA was viewed by students as one way to enhance skill application. The association of the increased self-reported preparedness of those who completed MHFA could be confounded by a positive environmental cultural. MPharm programmes need sufficient focus on real-world skills such as communication and crisis response, to complement the fundamental science.
Original languageEnglish
Article number73
JournalJournal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2021. Open Access - This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit


  • MPharm
  • Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)
  • Mental health
  • Undergraduate


Dive into the research topics of 'UK and Ireland survey of MPharm student and staff experiences of mental health curricula, with a focus on Mental Health First Aid'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this