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Mental health system should adopt an 'open every door' approach

Mental health system should adopt an 'every door i
Photo: Mental health system should adopt an 'every door is the right door' approach
Australian Physiotherapy Association National President, Scott Willis, has urged the Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention to adopt an ‘every door is the right door’ approach to mental health, highlighting the vital role physiotherapy plays in multidisciplinary and inter-disciplinary care.

Mr Willis said Australia’s mental health system needed to allocate more funding to team-based care, which includes physiotherapy treatment. 

“The APA supports best practice in managing physical pain that contributes to mental distress, and that best practice involves multidisciplinary, coordinated, quality care,” he said.

“Our members work in Emergency Departments, public hospitals, rehabilitation, in residential and home-based aged care, with veterans, in the NDIS and disability sector and with people managing chronic diseases.”
Physiotherapy is part of the suite of health care services that can improve mental health, and relieve the mental distress caused by chronic pain through improvements in managing and treating physical health.

“Physiotherapists have a very direct role to play in pain management and treatment and can offer expertise in prescribing individualised exercise programs, which can improve mood, promote wellbeing and address co-morbidities associated with mental health diagnoses,” he said.

According to Mr Willis, many APA members report that patients often confide in their practitioner about matters of both physical and mental health.

But while physiotherapists see components of mental health challenges in almost every patient story, they’re unable to provide assistance, other than to recommend their patient seek help.

“When a patient presented to me for neck pain, I quickly identified that there were underlying mental health issues the patient was experiencing but was not seeking support for because of lack of financial resources, and awareness of options available to them,” he said.

“In the absence of existing formal pathways and direct referrals, I could only recommend to this patient that they seek help from their GP and talk about mental health plans.

“Because there is no platform nor processes to formalise collaborative care, physiotherapists like myself are not formally included in the mental health care of their patient.”

Mr Willis said providing holistic care would improve a patient’s overall journey, rather than pushing them from one part of the health system to another.

“As the Mental Health system struggles with dramatic workforce shortages, it is more than time to use all the health and allied health workforce already trained, skilled and available to be part of the mental health care team,” he said.

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.