The Australian Government’s National Mental Health and Wellbeing Plan, released to support and safeguard the mental health of Australians during and beyond COVID-19, is a much needed additional resource in our national health response.
Australians living with mental health conditions are twice as likely to develop diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases which can result in a reduced lifespan of as much as 30 years.
Given the significant comorbidities often associated with poor mental health, it makes sense that a multidisciplinary health team is utilized to support Australians living with these conditions. The role of physiotherapy is often understated in the context of treating a person’s mental health, but it is as important as other health provider roles in identifying underlying health issues and providing appropriate care and support. Poor mental health is a culmination of many different factors, but small steps can create a huge impetus for motivation, engagement and ultimately improved health. It has been widely documented that we are seeing increased rates of mental ill-health as a result of COVID-19 due to the economic impacts of unemployment and social isolation. For those people living with the additional burden of poor physical health, the role of physiotherapy to help manage, treat, educate and motivate is invaluable.
Physiotherapy is by its very nature a caring profession. Physical contact and one-on-one interaction is so important to build rapport, establish trust and provide the right environment to allow the patient to be open to the care they are seeking and the results they want to achieve. The individualized treatment, exercise advice and education that a physio provides a patient who is suffering from mental and physical ill health is so important. We know that mental ill health as a result of COVID-19 is likely to have a greater impact on younger Australians and those who live outside our major metro areas, as well as those already living in disadvantaged circumstances. In these situations telehealth can be the lifeline these patients need to get the help they need when they need it. Medicare funding is available and I would urge those who need support to reach out. There are many health professionals who can help. At the end of the day, we all need to know we are valued and cared about. Providing multidisciplinary care to Australians living with complex mental and physical health conditions is the best way to achieve the best outcomes for all Australians.”
Phil Calvert, APA National President