During Mental Health Week (October 9 – 15, 2016), Neami National will focus on creating awareness about the important relationship between mental health and physical health, and highlight services available to support mental and physical wellbeing.
Research suggests that people living with severe mental illness experience significantly higher rates of physical illness1 and a life expectancy that is 13-30 years lower than the general population2.
Although suicide does play a role in reduced life expectancy, it is the preventable physical causes, most commonly heart attack and stroke that account for more than 60% of premature deaths3 amongst people with mental illness. Sedentary lifestyles, poor nutrition, obesity, smoking and side-effects of psychiatric medications are understood to play a role in this increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
A number of challenges often faced by people with mental illness, can make it difficult to successfully address physical health needs. Challenges include, for example, an understanding of the relationship between physical and mental health; engagement with health screenings; developing trusting relationships with health professionals; and an ability to contemplate, make and sustain health-related lifestyle changes.
In response to these challenges, Neami National has developed a number of initiatives to support people with mental illness to address their physical health needs.
Neami National CEO, Arthur Papakotsias, explains, “Consumers tell us that addressing their physical health issues is very important to them. Neami National has responded by seeking to better understand the range of factors at play in contributing to physical ill-health, and develop innovative ways to address these factors.”
One such initiative, is Neami’s Health Prompt, which provides a physical health screening resource to all Neami consumers at six monthly intervals. The Health Prompt supports health conversations between consumers and staff, to assist consumers to address their health concerns with primary health care providers, GPs and allied health professionals.
Another initiative, specific to South Australia is Neami’s Metabolic Health Stations. With reports suggesting that only 1.5% of local consumers have regular physical health checks, in partnership with SA health Neami provided metabolic health stations at local Community Mental Health Centres. The stations provide the opportunity for weight checks, BMI assessments and increase the likelihood of consumers discussing and addressing their physical health needs.
Neami National’s focus on the importance of physical health during Mental Health Week will also see staff engage in local site based activities and the national event Ride2Work Day on 12 October.
Neami National is a community mental health service supporting people living with mental illness to improve their health, live independently and pursue a life based on their own strengths, values and goals. Neami National provide services in diverse communities in Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, ranging from the inner-city and suburbs to regional and remote areas.
For more information contact Neami National Communications and Marketing
- RANZCP (2015) Keeping Body and Mind Together: improving the physical health and life expectancy of people with serious mental illness. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.
- De Hert, M., Correll, C. U., Bobes, J., Cetkovich-Bakmas, M.,Cohen, D., Asai, I., ... Leucht, S. (2011). Physical illness in patients with severe mental disorders. I. Prevalence, impact of medications and disparities in health care. World Psychiatry, 10, 52–77.
- Hert, M., Cohen, D. A. N., Bobes, J., Cetkovich-Bakmas, M.,Cohen, Leucht, S., Ndetei, D. M., ... & Gautam, S. (2011). Physical illness in patients with severe mental disorders. II. Barriers to care, monitoring and treatment guidelines, plus recommendations at the system and individual level. World psychiatry, 10(2), 138-151.