Mental Health and the Role of Occupational Therapy
The World Health Organization defines Mental Health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
Mental health problems can affect people of all ages, cultures, education and income levels. Mental illness varies from person to person and can include depression, anxiety, psychosis, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress and personality disorders.
What can you do?
During Mental Health Week, CMHA encourages all Canadians to reflect on their own attitudes towards people living with mental health issues. Reducing discrimination and stigma is paramount, so that people with mental health issues no longer feel shame due to mental illness and will no longer think twice about getting the support and help they need.
Occupational therapy's understanding of the relationship among person, occupation, and environment uniquely positions the profession to provide quality mental health services in environments where people live and work.
Occupational therapists have several roles in mental health, specifically addressing barriers to mental health by creating home, work, and community environments that facilitate meaningful occupation, collaborating with stakeholders for change, and participating in research and evidence-based practice. See CAOT Position Statement – Occupational Therapy and Mental Health Care for more information.
Occupational therapists work with people to acquire skills or make changes to establish a balance of work, leisure, activities of daily living and rest. See Putting Balance into Your Life for occupational therapy strategies to find the right balance for you:
- Help replace unhealthy activities, such as substance abuse, with healthy, meaningful activities.
- Assess skills, interests, values, and strengths in order to help clients maintain, modify or find appropriate employment.
- Implement activities that teach valuable skills e.g. social skills training with a peer support group.
- Help structure lives and organize daily activities so that clients can balance everything they want, need or are expected to do.
Occupational therapists have a role in promoting physical and mental health, while preventing injury and disability by considering both the worker and the workplace.
Occupational therapists promote workplace health and well-being through an assessment of cognitive demands and psychological risks. In collaboration with employers and employees, occupational therapists design intervention plans to address psychosocial issues and foster a positive and inclusive environment. Occupational therapists support individuals with cognitive, mental health and/or addiction issues to maintain employment or return to work.
Occupational therapists also have a role in return to work management which may include interventions such as job analysis, ergonomic assessment, workplace readiness training, resources planning and work modification. These interventions aim to support clients with early symptoms of illness, chronic condition or disability to improve stay at work, enhance productivity, manage symptoms and fatigue, and improve skills in stress management.
Occupational therapists may provide mental health intervention in a variety of settings: hospital, ie. inpatient psychiatric unit; community, ie. client’s home, long term care, day program; private practice clinic; client’s work place; therapy may be provided individually or to a group.