Physiotherapy New Zealand, the 4000-member national organisation for physiotherapists, will be celebrating marking the profession’s contribution to keeping New Zealanders healthy on the profession’s annual celebration day, Saturday September 8.
According to the World Health Organization, one in four people will experience a mental health condition of some sort in their lifetime. With depression a common mental condition, that affects one in six New Zealanders at some time in their lives.
Physiotherapy New Zealand President Liz Binns said with exercise a recognised treatment for depression, this year’s World Physical Therapy Day was a reminder that the work of physiotherapists was critical not only to physical health but also to the mental wellbeing of New Zealanders.
She said the organisation’s members helped patients throughout New Zealand every day and the annual day celebrated the amazing work that physiotherapists do worldwide.
“This year’s focus on mental health illustrates the wide range of areas in which physiotherapists work and how being active keeps us healthy mentally as well as physically. It is also particularly relevant, given the current government inquiry into mental health services.”
Binns said the organisation had 12 Special Interest Groups (SIGs), including Physiotherapy in Mental Health. The Mental Health SIG aimed to optimise wellbeing and empower people by promoting functional movement, movement awareness, physical activity and exercise.
She said physiotherapists working in mental health can support New Zealanders in improving physical activity, breathing patterns and muscle tension release, which can have profound effects on both the body and the brain through regulation of the autonomic nervous system.
Also helping the body to function can increase an internal sense of safety and a capacity for more meaningful engagement with life. “Essentially, when you feel safe in your body, you feel safe in the world. This ties in strongly with the Ministry of Health model for understanding Māori health, Te Whare Tapa Whā, highlighting physical, spiritual, family and mental health.”