Physical Health

Physical Health

One Door Mental Health are strong advocates for the priority of the individual’s holistic health. Many people living with mental illness suffer serious physical health difficulties which dramatically impedes their overall health and wellbeing.

What is physical health?

Physical health is the state of how the body is functioning. Some of the most obvious signs that we are unhealthy appear physically. 

Why is physical health important?

People living with severe and complex mental illness have among the shortest life expectancies of all Australians. People with mental illness develop major illnesses and chronic diseases at a young age and die sooner than other people. This can be up to twenty-five years earlier than the general population. They also experience greater lifestyle risks and develop complex health care needs due to untreated conditions. However, they face substantial barriers to accessing primary health care services and are less likely to get some of the evidence-based treatments and preventative health checks they need.

The close nexus between physical and mental health is well established, both nationally and internationally. People living with mental illness are at a far greater risk of experiencing a wide range of serious physical health problems; more commonly and to a more debilitating extent than the general population. Among people with mental illness, diabetes is four times that of the general population with significant weight gain. Even when looking at illnesses such as cancer, people with mental illness develop the disease at a similar rate to the general population, however, they have a fifty percent lower chance of survival.

Poor health has a serious impact on the quality of life, everyday functioning, social inclusion, and self-esteem. Chronic physical illnesses can result in reduced ability to exercise, increased isolation, job loss, financial insecurity, increased stress as well as maladaptive health behaviours and brain changes. Longer term mental illness is associated with behaviours that carry high health risks, such as smoking, alcohol abuse, substance abuse, obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise.

People living with mental illness do not receive adequate health care in relation to their needs. Additionally, they face critical challenges and systemic barriers to achieving the same standards of physical health as the general population. Many physical health problems remain undetected or untreated because people with mental illness have very limited access to general health care services, screening or continuity of care.

Many physical illnesses are preventable. Preventative health measures, health promotion, a holistic and ‘whole person’ approach to wellbeing as well as appropriate and timely treatment of general health problems improve a person’s overall quality of life and contribute to recovery. Screening programs must target those people at particular risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and diabetes.

What changes are we advocating for?

•Recognition of the importance of physical health in treating mental illness in funding
•The principles of empowerment and self-determination are central to the individual’s access to services and support with physical health
•Greater access to physical health services for people with mental illness such as support for weight loss, cessation of smoking and dealing with excessive alcohol consumption
•Greater awareness through the GP network of the role of physical health in managing mental health
•Development of a care plan that takes into consideration physical health

What services does One Door Mental Health provide?

Our evidence-based physical health programs have been highly successful in changing people’s lives for almost 10 years. The programs are co-designed with clients and carers and aim not just to improve a participant’s physical health, but all aspects of a person’s recovery. In the past year, the independently evaluated New Moves program has helped 323 people to significantly improve physical, social, vocational, psychological, environmental, lifestyle and nutritional outcomes. Last year, One Door also supported 45 organisations to reach 177 people and help to reduce their smoking.

New Moves: healthy lifestyle program
Tobacco Free: 10 week tobacco use reduction program
Individual One: one service from dietitians and exercise physiologists
Psychology services: to support individuals with their motivation and self confidence in improving their physical health
Centre-based exercise and cooking programs
Education for consumers and professionals on physical health, tobacco, exercise and mental health 

To speak to us about policies, advocacy or services related to physical health, please call us on 1800 THE KEY (843 539).

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Wellness Walk Sydney 2016: Having a great day out together!