Feeling down as the pandemic continues?

This year, the focus for National Physiotherapy Week (6-12 September) is on the mental health impact of Covid – and how your physiotherapist can help

If you feel blue, miserable, depressed, as we head into the last quarter of 2021, you’re not alone. Across the world, the impact on mental health has been felt by many people; those who suffered directly by being ill, hospitalised or having Long Covid, those who suffered through loss of income, unemployment as a result of Covid fallout, and those of us who have felt that life was on hold due to the pandemic.

A May 2021 paper from the OECD found that “From March 2020 onwards, prevalence of anxiety and depression increased and, in some countries, even doubled.” The figures are quite startling, according to another May paper: “The global prevalence estimate was 28.0% for depression; 26.9% for anxiety; 24.1% for post-traumatic stress symptoms; 36.5% for stress; 50.0% for psychological distress; and 27.6% for sleep problems.”

At least one in every three people was stressed; one in four was depressed or anxious.

Tackling mental health is not just about the mind – mind and body are one thing, and what’s happening in the body affects the mind, and vice versa.  “We have strong evidence that physical activity has a positive effect on mental health,” says Rogier van Bever Donker, President of the South African Society for Physiotherapy. “We also know that breathing techniques are a smart way of improving mental state. Physiotherapists are highly qualified medical professionals with a clear understanding of how these complex relationships between brain and body work.”

Exercise alone will not help everyone, and those who have had a bout of Covid may need to be cautious in embarking on an exercise programme, so consulting a physiotherapist is a wise first move. “We have a range of techniques to boost mental health, which includes things like relaxation techniques, body and movement awareness, and movement or physical activity carefully tailored to the individual. Stress, anxiety and depression can also result in physical pain, which we are well equipped to deal with,” says van Bever Donker. “Our job is to help you reach optimum health, wellbeing and function; so consult a physiotherapist to help you boost your mental health.”


To find a physiotherapist, go to www.saphysio.co.za