How OTs can help look after their patients’ mental health as well as their physical health.
This month we saw Mental Health Week help raise awareness around mental health conditions. The issue is receiving a lot of attention at the moment, and rightly so. As OTs, we often focus on treating our patients’ physical health, but it can be important to consider their mental health as well. Here are some suggestions for helping your patients maintain good mental health.
Time to Talk
Taking a moment to listen to a patient and let them express their worries can make a huge difference to their sense of wellbeing. It’s hard, when we are so busy with the other, more physical tasks on our list (not to mention admin) to make time to do this, but five minutes over a cup of tea with a patient while they share their worries may well be the most beneficial time you spend with them. Remember to ask open questions such as ‘how are you doing today’ that give them the space to talk if they need to,
Our environment can have a significant effect on our mental health, and the same is true for your patients. Consider whether there may be anything about the patient’s environment that could be contributing to poor mental health and think about whether you can change it. For example, their room may be noisy from a street outside or nearby social area. Perhaps the arrangement of furniture makes it difficult to move around, or maybe a room just needs a good tidy. The calmer an environment, the more likely it is to promote calm within your patients.
Learn Simple Methods to Promote Wellbeing
We can help promote good mental health in our patients by demonstrating simple calming techniques where required during our visit. Something as simple as asking them to mirror you taking long, slow breaths, for example, can help promote a sense of calm. If your patient is willing, you could even walk them through a calming meditation and/or visualisation, and teach them how to do this for themselves.
Diet & Exercise
‘Healthy body, healthy mind’ is a cliché for a reason – there is a direct link between our physical and mental health. While many of our patients will of course be restricted in their movements and physical abilities, there are things we can do to help maintain good health. Promote movement as much as possible – a short walk, leg or arm lifts – anything to get the blood moving. The right fuel makes a difference too – try and keep sugary treats to a minimum and encourage fruit and vegetables within a diet.
Look after yourself too
No doubt about it – being an OT is a stressful job at times, and it can be difficult not to ‘take work home’, both in a literal sense with admin, and a metaphorical one, as well feel the strain of caring for others. But to best look after others we need to make sure that we are well ourselves. Make time in the day to do something you enjoy – a long bath with a book, a nice walk or a cup of coffee with a friend. If you feel like your mental health is suffering, make sure you reach out to someone to talk to.