Mental Health Matters – World Physical Therapy Day 2018

September 3rd, 2018

Anton Barnett-Harris

Chief Executive Officer

Australian Physiotherapy Council

We’ve heard it and possibly debated it 1000 times around our dining tables across the globe – each time we get on a plane, we’re directed that in the case of an emergency, we must don the oxygen mask firstBefore your mother, before your partner, before your child.  A callous, mercenary instructional it is not.  It’s in fact critical for the possible safeguarding of life.  The only…literally the only chance you have to save someone else’s life is to preserve yourself long enough to try and help someone else.

Life is grueling and exacting and relentless…and that’s on a good day.  For physiotherapists – who are at the forefront of treating chronic pain, illness and oft times bringing people “back to life” – it’s essential that they practice (and be supported to practice) self-care, work-life balance and “emotional hygiene”.  The term was coined by the Dalai Lama but expounded upon by eminent psychologist Dr Guy Winch.

He explains it in the following terms: “In much the same way that dental hygiene involves brushing our teeth and flossing every day, and personal hygiene involves cleaning ourselves and taking care of physical injuries when we sustain them, emotional hygiene refers to being mindful of our psychological health and adopting brief daily habits to monitor and address psychological wounds when we sustain them”.

The data is in and its irrefutable our emotional wellbeing requires the same assiduousness that we invest in keeping our bodies healthy.

Hearteningly (and fittingly) the Physiotherapy Practice Thresholds in Australia & New Zealand now enshrine that registered Physiotherapists must recognise the need for, and implement, appropriate strategies to manage their physical and mental health resilience.  They must be equipped to, inter alia: 1) recognise the impact of stress and fatigue on their physical and mental health resilience; and 2) seek appropriate guidance and support from relevant others to manage their physical and mental health and resilience.

A failure to address the mental health conditions and overall vitality of health practitioners has reached a critical mass.  We are increasingly seeing the effects of  the absence of mental health wellbeing in the workplace.  What was once (erroneously) perceived as an “issue” affecting very few, is now emerging as one of the greatest workforce and indeed, human challenges of our time.

And it’s for this reason that the Australian Physiotherapy Council is proud to partner with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia and the Australian Physiotherapy Association in championing the holistic health of physiotherapists as part of this year’s World Physical Therapy Day – 8 September 2018.

Physiotherapists get people back to their best and keep them well.  For health practitioners who make such a profound difference in their patients’ lives, it’s essential that they too are afforded the best of care as well as explicit encouragement to seek support to maintain their emotional and physical wellbeing.

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