Physiotherapy and Mental Health in the Ageing Population:

Traditionally, people consider physiotherapists to be solely focused on the ‘physical’ aspects of rehabilitation however, we as physios know how important it is to think holistically for the best outcomes for our patients. This is why our physiotherapists, Caitlin and Stacey, attended the Mental Health First Aid course in October 2015, and are now accredited mental health first aiders. This course discussed many different aspects of mental health including common problems such as depression, anxiety and psychosis. 
Depression is a common condition, which can effect up to 6.2% of Australian’s in any one year (Kitchener, Jorm & Kelly 2013). Depression can manifest in many different ways including;
• A low/sad mood
• Loss of enjoyment and interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
• Lack of energy and tiredness
• Feeling worthless or feeling guilty when they are not really at fault
• Thinking a lot about death or suicide
• Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
• Moving more slowly or sometimes becoming agitated and unable to settle
• Having sleeping difficulties or sometimes sleeping too much
• Loss of interest in food or sometimes eating too much
Did you know that as you age you are likely to experience more risk factors for depression? These include (Kitchener, Jorm & Kelly 2013);
• Adverse events in your life including crime, death or illness in the family or having an accident such as a fall
• Separation or divorce
• Long term physical illness
• Caring full time for a person with long-term disability
• Medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, hepatitis, Vitamin B-12 deficiency or hypothyroidism
• Side effects of certain medications
• Lack of exposure to bright light in winter
We know that some older adults tend to feel as through depression is a sign of weakness rather than a real and treatable condition. Early intervention is important to ensure the best outcome, so what should you do if you or a family member is showing signs of depression?
• Make a time to talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling where you both feel comfortable and safe
• Speak to your doctor or encourage your family member to speak with their doctor about a mental health care plan
• Discuss your concerns with your physiotherapist who will be able to assist you in liaising with other health professionals and who will be able to individualise your rehabilitation based on your needs/goals
• Exercise!! It has been shown that exercise is moderately more effective than no therapy for reducing symptoms of depression (Cooney et al., 2013)
• Know who to call;
o Ambulance- 000
o Lifeline- 13 11 14
o Crisis care- 9223 1111 (24 hour metro)
o Mental health emergency response line- 1300 555 788
If you or someone you know would benefit from a holistic review and individualised treatment plan from one of our physiotherapists to assist in your rehabilitation at home call (08) 9242 0200.
• Cooney GM, Dwan K, Greig CA, Lawlor DA, Rimer J, Waugh FR, McMurdo M, Mead GE. Exercise for depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD004366. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004366.pub6., 
• Kitchener BA, Jorm AF, Kelly CM. Mental Health First Aid Manual. 3RD ed. Melbourne: Mental Health First Aid Australia; 2013.