Time to tap into mental and physical health

On World Mental Health Day, leading health organisations are urging people to check in with their mental and physical health and reconnect with their healthcare teams.

​The Equally Well Alliance and the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance (ACDPA) are concerned the conditions surrounding coronavirus are creating the perfect storm for mental and physical ill-health.

Both groups are encouraging Australians to prioritise their mental and physical wellbeing and take advantage of easing restrictions in Victoria to follow up any outstanding appointments.

​Professor Malcolm Hopwood, Chair of the Equally Well Alliance, says the link between mental and physical illness is often overlooked and Covid-19 presents additional risks.

​“We know that 80% of people with mental illness also have serious physical health conditions, like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and they are five times more likely to die prematurely from cancer compared to the general population,” he says.

​Covid-19 is creating a new set of uncertainties that further exacerbate risk, due to the effects of social isolation and financial insecurity, as well as risk factors like smoking, alcohol consumption and unhealthy diet.

​ACDPA Chair Sharon McGowan adds that the link between physical and mental ill-health goes both ways.

​“Chronic disease can increase risk of mental illness. Many people with chronic conditions like stroke, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and cancer experience anxiety or depression, and these conditions can have a significant social impact,” says Ms McGowan.

​Both groups are supportive of the government’s commitment to telehealth and the increased funding for mental health announced in the October budget, including doubling the number of Medicare-funded psychological services and investment in helplines and mental health services. However, they are concerned that links between mental and physical illness will still be missed.

​Professor Hopwood urges health professionals, including mental health teams, to consider the whole patient – both physical and mental health.

​For further information visit: factsheet on mental and physical health.