Physical health in mental health: considerations for paramedics


Life expectancy for people with a mental illness diagnosis is 15–20 years less than those without, mainly because of poor physical health. Mental ill health affects a significant proportion of paramedics' patients, and practitioners could assess and promote their physical health even though contact time is limited. Factors affecting physical health include substandard and disjointed care, stigma and diagnostic overshadowing—where physical symptoms are dismissed as a feature of mental illness. Diagnostic overshadowing is not discussed in key paramedic literature, although patients with mental health problems are at risk of not having their physical needs being taken seriously. The paramedic's role in health promotion is receiving more attention. Making Every Contact Count (MECC)—a behaviour change model using brief interaction—could be adopted by paramedics to promote physical health, especially when linked to campaigns and local services. Health promotion is in its early days in paramedicine, and paramedics could learn from the experiences of other professions.

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