We need seamless links between mental and physical health care
Author: Mel Islin, physical activity programme manager, Rethink Mental Illness
It is widely known and accepted that physical activity is good for our physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being. But often, people are isolated from activities or cannot find the right one.
My passion is helping people be active in an environment and structure that works for them and their life.
Being active and leading a healthy lifestyle can help prevent other illnesses and reduce the mortality gap, which is why what we do is so important.
Everyone diagnosed with a mental illness is entitled to an annual physical health check with their GP. The health check covers the following:
- Blood cholesterol levels
- Blood glucose levels
- Blood pressure
- Alcohol consumption
- Height and weight
Physical activity is proven to support weight management and reduce blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels, so it is a great way to improve physical health markers.
But currently, only around 30% of people attend their check, which means the mortality gap remains consistent. People need to access relevant physical health support that they can access during their physical health check.
Rethink Mental Illness has developed a Physical Health Check tool to help people to manage their physical health. Additionally, in collaboration with Public Health England in the North West, NHS England and Improvement and colleagues in Primary Care, Equally Well UK, of which we are a joint partner with the Centre for Mental Health, has published a resource to help Integrated Care Systems (ICS), GPs and other primary care staff, and Local Authorities to help adults living with severe mental illness to improve their physical health. These tools will ensure people with severe mental illness are aware of – and have support to access – physical health checks. Those carrying out the checks are appropriately supported to provide accurate information and follow-up advice and support.
We have co-produced the Rethink Activity toolkit to support people severely affected by mental illness to be more active and improve their health and well-being through physical activity. We have also produced a Physical Activity Pack to support people to move more at home.
We need to create seamless links between mental and physical health care and support and utilise existing community infrastructure.
We are now embarking on a new intervention in partnership with people with severe mental illness to embed physical activity into the community mental health pathway and support people’s physical health and increase physical activity levels, linked with our Building Communities that Care programme.
Further investment is required to ensure that 100% of people entitled to an annual physical health check attend theirs and that the content of the checks is consistent, informative, and effective. Where there are opportunities to discuss physical activity, these conversations should be had with clear exit routes that are fit for the individual.
Working for Rethink Mental Illness is so rewarding. Having worked for other charities in the past, I have never worked alongside colleagues who care as much as they do here. It’s also inspiring and motivating working with people with lived experience and seeing the impact of my work on the ground. It keeps the spark alive in my work.
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