Tackling medication non-adherence in severe mental illness: where are we going wrong?

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Abstract

Non-adherence with medication is common in patients with schizophrenia. Addressing adherence to treatment may enhance clinical outcomes. Our aim was to explore mental health professionals experience and practise managing medication adherence in patients with schizophrenia. In this qualitative study, we interviewed mental health professionals from three key groups involved in promoting adherence: pharmacists, psychiatrists and nurses. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using a thematic approach. Thirty-five health professionals participated. From these interviews, we identified five main themes: my beliefs inform my practice; withholding information; adherence is important; who is responsible for promoting adherence?; and is it ok to pay people to take medication? Our overarching meta-theme was that practice with regard to promoting adherence was informed by beliefs and not by evidence. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to explore different mental health professionals' approaches to working with patients who do not want to take medication. The significance of participants' personal beliefs is an important observation. Our findings suggest that to support clinicians to more effectively help patients manage their medication, it may be first necessary to challenge pre-existing beliefs about adherence.

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