Physical Health for those with a Mental Illness in Western Australia
Updated: Jan 1
One of the challenges faced by people in WA who have a mental illness is managing their physical health alongside their psychiatric problems.
The reasons for these are:
Symptoms associated with a mental illness makes every-day activities like exercising or eating well very taxing. You’ll also find it difficult to give up habits like smoking or drinking, possibly because of amotivation of a sense of hopelessness as a result of depression.
Several medications used for treatment can cause problems for your physical health due to their side effects.
Several health professionals emphasize the patient's mental health but fail to adequately address their clients physical health.
I’ve listed below suggestion that we offer clients who see our psychiatrists in WA around managing their physical health.
YOU CAN HELP YOURSELF
Patients with a mental illness in regional Western Australia are at a higher risk of developing the following conditions.
High blood pressure
Substance abuse (problems with alcohol and drugs)
Teeth and gum issues
Asthma, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions
If you understand these physical risks associated with mental illness you can work along with your health providers, including your GP in say Broome or Busselton to start to address these.
A FEW CHANGES ARE NECESSARY
Making small changes with your physical health can have multiple benefits.
Drink water in place of sugary or carbonated drinks. Eat your meals regularly. Join a program such as Quitline that will help you quit smoking. You can take a walk rather than driving. Cook your meals
HAVE REGULAR PHYSICAL CHECKUPS
Psychiatrists and GP in Western Australia frequently run physical health check on their patients. Ask if you've not done one in a while. Physical health checks for clients across WA including in regional centres like Broome and Busselton should be happening yearly.
Your doctor doing the physical health check could do the following:
He or she will inquire of your medical history
Your doctor will ask questions about your lifestyle (diet, smoking, and drinking habits)
Check your weight
Review your blood pressure to see whether it’s on the high or low side
Order blood sugar and cholesterol tests
Provide or recommend screening tests (such as a bowel cancer test or a Pap smear).
THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE
An active lifestyle promotes good physical health. It is not surprising to know that exercise has positive benefits on mental health. People have reported and evidence shows an improvement in mental health symptoms after engaging in exercise.
There are many community services across regional WA which promote physical activity, you can start by finding an activity or sport that they like. If you belong to a mental health support group in Broome or Busselton, you can request assistance in engaging in sport related community activities.
A HEALTHY DIET IS IMPORTANT
A healthy diet is important for your mood, health, and energy.
Healthy eating involves:
Having lots of vegetables, legumes, and fruit
Including wholemeal pasta, rice, and bread in your diet
Reducing your intake of alcohol
Reducing the amount of sugary foods, and drinks, and high fat, salt, or sugary foods.
Drinking lots of water
CARE FOR YOUR TEETH AND GUMS
To maintain the health of your teeth and gums, do the following:
Brush twice daily
Visit your regional community dentist at least once a year
Drink plain water in place of sugary drinks
Find out if the medication that you are taking has any adverse effects on your teeth
YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE RISKS AND BENEFITS OF YOUR MEDICATIONS
Inquire from your psychiatrist about the risks and benefits of your medications.
Certain medications have their attendant side effects, for instance, causing you to feel dull, or even causing weight gain. For instance, antipsychotics have effects on cholesterol, weight, and blood sugar levels. Inquire from your doctor if it is possible to switch medications or step down the dose to minimise the impacts on your physical health.
ASSISTING A PERSON WITH THEIR PHYSICAL HEALTH
If your friend or a family member has a mental illness, you can help improve their physical health in several ways.
Work together to achieve your goals
Assist the person you are caring for to choose at least one at up to three realistic goals for their physical health.
Taking a 30-minute walk couple of times a week
Drinking water after meals
Drawing up a weekly meal plan every Sunday
Set a good example
As a friend or relative, you can use your actions to influence the person you are caring for.
Reduce your tobacco smoking or alcohol-drinking habits
Create daily cooking, eating, and shopping plan.
WHICH PROFESSIONAL CAN ASSIST WITH PHYSICAL HEALTH?
If you have any inquiries about your physical health, then you can approach your GP. There are many GPs across regional areas such as in Busselton and Broome who keenly manage the healthcare of their client with mental health issues.
A GP in Western Australia can:
Conduct a physical health check
Make provisions for screening tests
Make referrals to other health professionals in Western Australia if need be.
Your GP is indispensable when it comes to taking care of your health. Ensure your psychiatrist informs your GP about diagnostic or treatment changes.
Your psychiatrist can help all aspects of your physical and mental health. You can inquire from your psychiatrist about:
Physical health challenges experienced by people with mental illness in regional WA.
Side effects of the medications that have been prescribed for you, and its effects on your physical health.
Physical symptoms such as a cravings for junk food, weight gain, etc.
Dietitians are specialists in nutrition and healthy eating. They can help you to create a good eating plan – one that suits your condition. They can educate you on healthy eating, cooking, and food shopping.
You can locate an accredited Dietitian in Western Australia here.