Why mental health awareness is important

CSP member Brendon Stubbs is the Senior Clinical Lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London. He’s also a physiotherapist at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. He’s a passionate advocate for healthcare professionals increasing their skills and knowledge when it comes to mental health.

‘First, realise there is no health without mental health. Recognise mental health is all of our business,’ Brendan said. 

‘Second, I would call for further reading, training and courses to become equipped on recognising, listening and managing mental illness. 

‘This could include joining the Chartered Physiotherapists Interested in Mental Health special interest group training days and visiting physiotherapists working in mental health locally. 

‘Patients will feel valued, that their wider psychological health is being considered and the impact of listening and being there for a person can have a profound impact on people. 

‘No longer can we just be physical therapists and considering the psychological and emotional health of people is essential to maximise therapeutic alliance and engagement, especially in those with mental illness.’ 

Brendon sees Stronger My Way as a positive vehicle for this learning to take place.

‘Strengthening can have really positive effects on the physical and mental health of the population,’ he said.

‘We examined associations between individual and combined markers of cardiorespiratory fitness and grip strength with the incidence of common mental disorders.

Our research group demonstrated that physical activity and exercise can have a protective effective against developing depression.

‘It’s a useful adjunct treatment for those with the condition but has focussed on aerobic exercise. Recently attention has turned to the power of strength training.

‘In a cohort of 152,000 depression free people were followed for seven years. We demonstrated having stronger muscle was protective of future depression and anxiety, adjusting for other factors. 

Strength training is not only important to maintain function, but may play a key role in protecting against future mental ill health.

For people with depression, strength training can be a useful add on to help reduce symptoms of depression, alongside traditional treatments.  

Brendon added: ‘Generally, people experiencing mental ill health may have motivational barriers and low mood and this can be a challenge to help people start strength training and physiotherapists are ideally placed to facilitate this. 

We have shown that physiotherapy led exercise interventions results in less dropout in people with depression.

‘For people, breaking down strength training into meaningful tasks that strengthen their muscles like climbing stairs, carrying shopping and picking up children.

Exercises like Pilates can help break any preconceived ideas that strength training has to involve going to the gym and lifting heavy weights.  Although this is helpful for people who would like to.’

Above all, it comes back to listening.

‘When a patient feels they are being listened to, this gives them an opportunity to open up,’ Brendon said.

‘Healthcare professionals should give patients time, where possible, to explain how they feel.

‘They should understand and know that all patients value being listened to and having their voice heard in a safe space.’

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