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Physiotherapy and Mental Health

Physiotherapy in Bhutan

 After recognising physiotherapy as an integral part of multi-disciplinary team in patient management, it was introduced in Bhutan in 1984 with the help of an expatriate physiotherapist. Bhutan got its first physiotherapist, Dr Sanga Dorji, in 1994. Today, there are 19 physiotherapists and 59 physiotherapy technicians in all dzongkhags except Gasa.

According to WHO, ‘physiotherapists assess, plan and implement rehabilitative programs that improve or restore human motor functions, maximise movement ability, relieve pain syndromes, and treat or prevent physical challenges associated with injuries, diseases and other impairment.’ Physiotherapy professionals provide continuum of care in preventive, curative, and rehabilitative aspects.To meet the needs of patient, physiotherapy professionals cover a wide range of approaches with a focus on human movement and function.

Physiotherapy and Mental Health

This year’s theme ‘physiotherapy and mental health’ give us an opportunity to create awareness on physiotherapy professionals’ role in mental health. 

Studies have indicated that about 20 percent of people living with osteoarthritis, 33 percent of stroke patients, and 38 percent with frailty suffer from depression. Long-lasting musculoskeletal disorders and mental health are leading causes of sick leave worldwide. 

Exercise is an evidence-based treatment for people with depression, and physiotherapy professionals work with people who may have depression alongside long-term health issues. Physical activities also prevent the development of mental health issues. 

Another study found exercises having anxiolytic effects on people diagnosed with anxiety and stress-related disorders. There are still other studies, which have found that exercises improve cognitive functioning in people with schizophrenia. 

Inactivity and sedentary lifestyles are detrimental to people living with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorders. Thus, improving fitness is important to reduce all-cause mortality in people with severe mental illness.

Researchers have also identified negligence of physiotherapy services to mental illness patients in Sub-Saharan Africa which is due to poor knowledge of policy makers, training institutes and other mental health care professionals.

People suffering from depression and schizophrenia, for example, are more likely to comply with the exercise requirement when delivered by a physiotherapy professional, thus leading to better results. Better outcomes are experienced when exercise is delivered by qualified health care professional such as physiotherapist. 

In Bhutan, exercise and other activities are integral to individual lives so far as when you do one, the other follows suit.  Circumambulating choeten and lhakhangs is one important aspect of Bhutanese social life. However, the advantage of the same are not just psychological and spiritual but also physical. We can do more than just this, though. Given the pristine environment and relatively thin crowd, people in Bhutan can enjoy outdoor activities of various kinds, including jogging and hiking, among others. These activities elevate your mood by helping in release of happy hormone. Such hormone-based happiness last up to more than 12 hours. There are more ways to live happily, healthy, and sane than the opposite in Bhutan.

Contributed by Department of  Physiotherapy

JDWNRH Thimphu 

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