Improving the physical health of those with chronic mental illness

Professor Bruce Arroll on improving the physical health of those with chronic mental illness, including:

  • types of health problems, individual and system wide
  • the impact of psychiatric medication on physical health
  • reducing the effect of prescription medication
  • mitigating health issues for patients
  • the role of screening
  • transition to primary care
  • take home messages.


This MedTalk was recorded in 2017.


Peer group discussion points

1. Medication to treat chronic mental illness can has an impact on the physical health of patients.
  • What have you observed in your practice in regard to the potentially negative health effects of psychotropic medication? Are there any medications that are particularly problematic?
  • Where you have had concerns about the physical health effects of a psychotropic medication, how have you managed this? What is your experience with contacting secondary care providers for advice regarding medication management?
  • Have you had any experience of “diagnostic overshadowing” where a symptom has been ascribed to a patient’s mental health where in fact the symptom represented a physical health issue? What happened?

2. Those with chronic mental health issues have higher rates of many health conditions particularly metabolic disturbances and cardiovascular disease. This may be related to a number of factors including the effect of medication, health literacy, social and financial circumstances and the ability and willingness to engage with primary care services.

  • What are some of the barriers (if any) that you find to treating patients with chronic mental health issues? How could these barriers be overcome? Does anyone have any particularly successful strategies they have used?
  • What strategies do you have in your practice to mitigate some of the negative health issues for those on psychotropic medication?

3. A number of screening activities have been suggested as being important in those with chronic mental health conditions. Systems such as mailed out recalls and opportunistic screening may be less appropriate than in other patient groups.

  • Do you have any systems in your practice for the co-ordinated screening of those with chronic mental health conditions?
  • Do you think it is necessary or feasible?

This MedTalk was supported by:

Date Published: 
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
This presentation is intended for qualified health practitioners professional development and should not be relied upon for any other purpose. Any opinions offered are those of the presenter or other speaker and do not necessarily represent the views of Goodfellow Unit.