Mental Health Occupational Therapy Symposium 2017

by Danielle Hitch

On Friday 26th May, the inaugural Mental Health Occupational Therapy Symposium was held at Deakin Downtown. Eighty occupational therapists working across the full breadth of mental health practice attended, taking advantage of the lovely surroundings to network and share innovations.

The day began with a welcome from the MC (Danielle Hitch) and a workshop to benchmark innovative practice using the Translating Allied Health Knowledge (TAHK) tool. The session highlighted to all participants how they were individually engaging in innovative practice, and how knowledge translation can be viewed as a complex and sophisticated occupation in its own right. Conversation during and after this session unearthed some amazing ideas and practices, and great engagement with how we do, be, become and belong in the mental health space.

After morning tea, the symposium continued with a series of diverse and stimulating presentations. The occupational nature of our practice was highlighted time and time again, along with the ways in which mental health occupational therapists are pursuing occupational justice for people impacted upon by mental illness. Many more questions could have been asked by the audience had time permitted!

The day came to an end with an inspiring keynote speech by Dr. Priscilla Ennals (NEAMI). Dr. Ennals reflected on her own journey as a mental health researcher, and highlighted multiple opportunities for us to connect as mental health occupational therapists. In her discussion of NDIS and the Primary Health Networks, Dr. Ennals got everything thinking about new opportunities that are there for the taking. As this summary of Tweets shows, the event also generated some great commentary on Twitter.

As the feedback below demonstrates, this initial iteration of the symposium was a success and indicates a desire for another event next year. Thank you to everyone who helped to bring this years event together, and to those who have volunteered to form a steering committee for next year.  The presentations (including slides) will be posted on this blog progressively over the next 4-6 weeks, so please visit again 🙂


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Why don’t we get our patients to advocate for us?

by Danielle Hitch

I posted this on my Facebook page the other day, and got the usual likes and sarky comments …



But it got me thinking, why is it that there are still people who don’t know what we do. I think one of the answers to this lies in the way we market ourselves. So much of the brochures about ‘occupational therapy’ try to to serve multiple masters – telling our colleagues what we do (so they will refer to us) while also letting potential patients know what we can offer them. And, by and large, they don’t meet either of these goals particularly well.

The following video was released by the College of Occupational Therapists in the UK, and highlights how the people we serve could be our greatest advocates.

Occupational therapists provide cost effective solutions for mental health services

When you type ‘what occupational therapy did for me’ into Google, you only get hits with occupational therapists talking about what the profession did for them! So what are we doing this for? – ourselves or our patients/clients/whatever …

I don’t need another brochure which talks about ‘activities of daily living’ – I want a series of ads on tv/radio/online, where people who have received mental health occupational therapy tell us the impact it had on their lives. I want to cut through the inherent insecurity we still seem to have about ourselves and get to the bottom line – OT has the power to transform lives. This is our strongest marketing point, and we are totally missing it at the moment.


Heading off to ethics ….



Hi ho, hi ho, its off to ethics we go ….

Ethics review and ethics committees play an incredibly important role in evidence based practice. When you take your great idea and expose it to such peer review, you ensure that you are upholding the principles of autonomy, beneficience, non malfecience and justice. In other words, ethics committees help us all respect our clients agency, give them what they are owed or deserve, do good and do no harm.

TEAR (The Ethics Application Repository) is hosted by the University of Otago, and is an  open access, on line repository of ethics application forms and consent statements. The ability to see how others are demonstrating their ethical prowess is incredibly useful for ethics virgins and old timers alike – the translation of the principles into practice is a very tricky task. TEAR includes a range of applications from diverse disciplines, many of which are from a health context.

To access TEAR click here, and I would encourage you all to consider donating your own applications – sharing openly is a practice we here at O4MPH are keen to promote!




Going live …..

While many of you have been enjoying BBQs and your day off work for Australia Day, I’ve been busy putting the final touches on this blog. And I’m happy (well, quite nervous actually) to say that I think its ready to go live ….

So, welcome to Occupation for Mental and Psychosocial Health (O4MPH)! Please browse the selection of posts we already have available, and please consider contributing yourself – this blog will only be as good as its contributors and I know there’s a ton of amazing work going on out there that you could tell us about. Remember to sign up for email reminders so you get to hear about our latest posts as soon as they drop.

Here’s to some though provoking, really useful, boat rocking debate and discussion about the wonderful world of mental health occupational therapy.

Dani Hitch




Proppa Deadly – Personal Stories of depression and anxiety from Indigenous Australians

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In this project supported by beyondblue, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people post their personal stories of depression and anxiety. Sixteen radio stations across the nation produce and broadcast these stories, and they are also collected on this website.

Proppa Deadly

The stories are around three minutes long, and include both male and female perspectives. The first part of each story describes how the person experienced their symptoms, while the second part describes which supports they accessed and actions they took to recovery. An initial evaluation has found the project has elicited extremely positive responses from the community, and that the aural format of the stories is particularly engaging for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people. Read more about the evaluation here

Many stories mention the functional issues associated with depression and anxiety (i.e. difficulties caring for a baby, social isolation), but they are not the focus of the narratives. These stories are very personal and powerful, and provide a client centred, culturally appropriate resource for anyone working with Indigenous people.

7.5 out of 10

Hot Off The Press – December 2016

This month has seen the publication of interesting contributions around the nature of function, dementia care and asylum seekers and working with people experiencing schizophrenia. Click on the articles title to see the full abstract.


Micheal, L. (2016). “So can she cook?” The activity process beyond a narrative of function. International Journal of Mental Health, 45(5), 236-240.


Shimada, T., Nishi, A., Yoshida, T., Tanaka, S., & Kobayashi, M. (2016). Development of an individualised occupational therapy programme and its effects on the neurocognition, symptoms and social functioning of patients with schizophreniaOccupational Therapy International, 23(4), 425-435.


Streater, A., Spector, A., Aguirre, E., & Orrell, M. (2016). Cognitive stimulation therapy (CST) for people with dementia in practice: An observational study. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 79(12), 762 – 767.


If you review these articles, consider doing a critical review for your fellow readers of this blog!!


A resource to help you attain new levels of knowledge and awesomeness …..

By Danielle Hitch

27th November, 2016 youtube

ChrisFlipp You Tube Channel

The ChrisFlipp You Tube Channel has over 50 short videos that provide an introduction to a range of research and drug & alcohol topics. Most cover their content in less than 10 minutes, and provide a bite size overview with some added tongue in cheek humour.

What’s good

  • The length of the videos make them easy to watch amongst your other duties
  • All are engaging and accessible to watch
  • The combination of research skills and drug & alcohol themes are particularly relevant to mental health
  • Both qualitative and quantitative research topics are addressed

What’s not so good

  • Chris is obviously from America, so some of the information presented isn’t directly translatable to the Australian context
  • There are some minor errors in some videos (although these are corrected with notes in the videos themselves)
  • The pace of some videos is quite fast, and would require repeated viewing

Recommended Videos

  • Surveys
  • Reliability and Validity
  • Case Study
  • Anatomy of a Research Article
  • Philosophical Assumptions and World Views 

So, what’s the verdict ….

If you like your information bite sized, and in a way that doesn’t take itself too seriously, the ChrisFlipp channel is for you. It’s a great as an introductory resource, and as a ‘refresher’ when you’re reading research. Fun, concise and accessible.


8 out of 10 !!!


Money makes the world go around…

By Danielle Hitch

27th November, 2016


Most mental health OT’s get into the field for the best of reasons – to improve quality of life, address occupational justice and generally make life better for people with mental illness. And we think this is enough – but it isn’t …

We can talk ‘till the cows come home about how we support people to engage in meaningful occupations, and enable them to participate to their optimal level in the community … and often do.

But we operate in a system that values other outcomes that are easier to measure and more clearly defined, one of which is cost effectiveness. Money does indeed make the health world spin, particularly in the public sector where everything we do is funded by the hard earned of our fellow citizens.

So, why are there so few studies into the cost effectiveness of OT in mental health? Studies such as these have been conducted in physical health, and invariably found that the presence of OT reduces burden on the public health system and saves money. The most recent of these from Scotland found that OTs can make efficiency saving while also experiencing patient experience.

A 2008 study found that the provision of OT could save €1748 per patient with dementia (Graff et al., 2008), while a 2013 study found an OT led lifestyle intervention for people with panic disorder proved to provide value for money over 10 months. A review by Mary Morley and Genevieve Smith (2013) also found two further studies that showed OT to be a cost effective intervention for people with enduring psychotic conditions (Cook & Howe, 2003) and work related major depression (Schene et al., 2007).

All of this evidence has been generated in Europe – where is the evidence from Australia? We need to partner with health economists to prove, in concrete terms, the ‘worth’ of occupational therapy in mental health. It is only be putting a dollar figure on what we save the community through out work that it will be valued and appropriately funded. While this might seem quite mercenary, the economic analysis of the impact of mental health occupational therapy will provide far greater security and support for the profession than any number of small scale studies into the subjective experience of being a provider or consumer of OT.

So, does this mean that qualitative studies are redundant? – Of course not! As with all aspects of life, there needs to be a balanced approach to the evidence we utilise to support our work in mental health occupational therapist. Economic analyses are tricky to get going, but they are essential to the ongoing sustainability of mental health occupational therapy. So, get in touch with your local health economist …. They could become your best friend.


Cook, S., & Howe, A. (2003) Engaging people with enduring psychotic conditions in primary mental health care and occupational therapy. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66(6), 236–46.

Graff, M.J., Adang, E.M., Vernooij-Dassen, M.J. et al. (2008). Community occupational therapy for older patients with dementia and their care givers: Cost effectiveness study. BMJ, 336, 154-158.

Lambert, R.A., Longelly, P., Harvey, I. & Poland, F. (2010). Cost-effectiveness analysis of an occupational therapy-led lifestyle approach and routine general practitioner’s care for panic disorder. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 45(7), 741-750.

Morley, M., & Smyth, G. (2013) Are occupational therapy interventions for service users with mental health problems cost-effective? British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 76(10), 470–473.

Schene AH, Koeter MWJ, Kikkert MJ, Swinkels JA, McCrone P (2007) Adjuvant occupational therapy for work-related major depression works: randomised trial including economic evaluation. Psychological Medicine, 37(3), 351–62.

Setting Up a Blog for Mental Health Occupational Therapists

By Danielle Hitch

November 27th, 2016


I thought it would be good to start the ball rolling on our ‘Practice Innovation’ posts by telling you all about the background work that went into setting up OMPH. For much of this year, I have been working towards its launch and the academic in me really wanted it to be based on evidence (and yes, I can hear you all groaning, but bear with me).

I was fortunate enough to have the support of two fourth year Deakin University students – Georgie Bundy and Rohana Tully – who surveyed mental health occupational therapists about what they’d like to see on this blog. And here’s what they found from the 28 mental health occupational therapists who responded:

  • About half had used blogs before, mostly for personal use. However, 30% had accessed research via a blog in the past, and all of them stated they found the medium really useful
  • The majority wanted to access the blog weekly (46%) or monthly (42%)
  • Around 27% were interested in submitting their own work to the blog, with a further 54% somewhat interested
  • The most popular proposed features were critical reviews of recently published articles, lived experience posts, lists of the latest research in mental health occupational therapy and practice innovation
  • The majority (77%) stated that a mental health occupational therapy blog would be beneficial or very beneficial to their practice.
  • Blogs were seen to be effective ways to support communities of practice (73%) and rapidly disseminate knowledge and evidence (92%).
  • Almost everyone (92%) wanted to see themed fortnights or months on the blog over the course of the year and many provide specific suggestions around the content of these themes

So, lots of great suggestions there – what have I done with them?

  • The blog will be updated at least fortnightly, but has the capacity to be updated instantly should breaking news or hot topics arise
  • The blog will be multi-author to enable all members of the mental health occupational therapy community to contribute
  • The most popular proposed features have all been included
  • There will be a theme every fortnight which people are welcome to contribute to, along with the ability to post on whatever tickles your fancy


There you go – evidence into action! I will continue to evaluate the impact of this blog at regular intervals, but don’t wait for a feedback survey to tell us what you think! Comment on the posts, and hit us up at to let us know if this blog is hitting the spot (or not).

I almost quit as an occupational therapist when the NHS failed me – The Guardian



The following article is a very moving and quite challenging account of a mental health occupational therapist’s experience as a carer. The dual role of occupational therapist + carer / consumer is one that many of us play, and colleagues with these experiences (both positive and negative) are an important voice within our profession.

The Guardian, Thursday 10 November 2016