New Zealanders are more prepared to talk about mental health issues such as anxiety and stress, a leading health practitioner is finding.
Carl Glyde, clinical lead at a new Habit Health clinic recently opened in Hamilton says these issues can arise from the impact of physical injuries people are receiving treatment for.
"We are finding patients talk about mental health more often, especially in the wake of Covid," he says. "This is very helpful from a physiotherapy point of view because it is important to take it into consideration in our support of them as body health can affect mental health and vice versa."
Habit Health has more than 100 locations throughout the country and as well as traditional physiotherapy they offer a range of other services including psychology and EAP which enables them to offer support and help for both physical and mental issues.
"Some people are still quite stoic in the face of mental health while others often talk about it as if it's separate from the body. It isn't," Glyde says.
"When someone is recovering from an injury or surgery, they often experience many additional stresses that can induce anxiety arising from situations like experiencing pain, having to take time off work or being unable to resume playing a sport."
Glyde says having patients open to talking about issues like anxiety "helps us to be sensitive to these issues and tailor our therapy accordingly. We find we pick up on this as time goes by and build a rapport with them and once we have these conversations we are able, if necessary, to refer them to our psychology service.
"If there have been any positives from the last 18 months it is that Covid has created a platform from which we can have these discussions because the impact of recovering from an injury or surgery on mental health can be serious.
"People may need to take time off work, school or other obligations, rely on family, friends or neighbours for assistance and be fearful of re-injury," he says. "There may be financial implications as a result of being unable to work and that in turn may contribute to feelings of misplaced guilt."
He says some of the ways Habit Health recommends to avoid stress and anxiety include walking (enabling more blood and oxygen to get to the brain), slow breathing (breathing in through the nose and slowly out of the mouth helps regulate mood), talking to friends or family or asking for help.
His comments come as, globally, reports show the rate of mental health issues have risen since Covid. In the US, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health Joshua Gordon says a June 2020 Centers for Disease Control survey showed 31 per cent of respondents reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, a number "nearly double the rates we would have expected before the pandemic."
In New Zealand Dr Bryan Betty, the medical director of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, said in a report last year in the British newspaper The Guardian, that cases of depression and anxiety rose "substantively" in the wake of the 2020 Covid lockdowns while anecdotal evidence showed more prescriptions were issued for anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication.
Hamilton is one of two new Habit Health clinics (the other is in New Plymouth) to open this year. As well as physiotherapy and psychology the clinics offer a wide range of services including occupational health nursing, occupational therapy, dietetics, neurology, speech language therapy, vocational rehabilitation, pain management, concussion services and community and home-based rehab.
"Habit Health is different because we offer a wrap-around health service," Glyde says. "Healthcare should be collaborative, drawing on the best knowledge from the experts available. We can see clients in our 100 locations for just about everything that's getting in the way of living their best life."
He says the Covid lockdowns contributed to a greater number of people suffering niggly injuries because with time on their hands a lot took to activities like running which their bodies were not used to.
Glyde says he is also bracing for a surge in injuries once winter is over. "At this time of year people are less active with the result they lose strength and muscle mass and their bodies have less capacity to carry load.
"This makes people more susceptible to injury during spring and summer when they are back out doing things. We encourage people to stay active, even when it's cold outside. The best thing they can do is gradually build good habits for health like getting up and walking around every hour to keep circulation going."
For more information visit: habit.health
For the Hamilton clinic page go to: habit.health/about-us/locations/habit-health-centre-place