[Taken from BAOT] Occupational therapists work with service users to help them to regain and maintain a personally satisfying routine of everyday activities – this could include self care, leisure or work activities – that they need or want to do, in order to help people experiencing mental health problems to live life their way. By working in this way, occupational therapists can ensure service users choose health-enhancing activity and alter lifestyle habits such as smoking, diet and exercise.
Occupational therapists support service users with mental health problems to recover through identifying occupational focussed goals that help to improve their self-care and self esteem by focussing on activities and work that leads to self sustained and independent living. (College of Occupational Therapists 2007).
By using their specialist expertise, occupational therapists can carry out multi factorial assessments to establish the functional implications of a service user’s mental health problems. They can then offer occupational therapy interventions that grade activities to ensure successful rehabilitation and recovery.
Occupational therapists are recognised as one of the five key professions successfully assisting in the recovery of those with mental health problems. (Care Services Improvement Partnership and National Institute for Mental Health in England 2007) (New Ways of Working ca 2006)
Occupational therapists help service users with poor mental heath with managing self care
In an audit of self care goals conducted in a local mental health service, good progress was made by service users with poor mental health in meeting occupational focussed goals, such as cooking, for example. As a result of six weeks of occupational therapy intervention, 60% of the service users audited reported their goals were fully met, with a further 25% of service users partly meeting their goals. (Morley 2010)
Self care activities are those ‘that keep you feeling well in mind and body’ (Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, Head and Senior Practitioners Steering Group 2010, reported by Morley 2010). Self care is a key criteria in an individual being able to manage their long term mental health condition, live independently and, if appropriate, remain in employment.
Occupational therapists help service users with poor mental heath return to work
Occupational therapists enable people with mental health problems to return to work three months earlier, and work for longer hours than standard psychiatric interventions. 50% of service users with mental health problems who returned to work as a result of occupational therapy intervention, were still in employment 42 months later. This demonstrates the long lasting effect of occupational therapy intervention. The financial benefits of service users being able to return to work sooner and work for longer hours significantly outweigh the cost of providing occupational therapy interventions. (Schene et al 2007)
Occupational therapists help service users with poor mental heath access services
A project was set up to explore and assess whether the integration of occupational therapy practice would improve the employment, training and education prospects of people accessing community teams within a London Borough. The project involved 274 people who had been diagnosed with serious mental illness; 63% were from black and ethnic minority backgrounds living in deprived areas and 93% were unemployed. The aim of this project was to create a pathway for these service users to be able to access vocational opportunities. The occupational therapists developed a successful person-centred and goal-focused approach to assess and meet the service users’ needs. As a result, 66% of the service users gained access to education, voluntary work, open employment and engaged with employment services. (Bourne et al 2007)
1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem during one year
mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in the UK
women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men
about 10% of children have a mental health problem at any one time
depression affects 1 in 5 older people living in the community, and 2 in 5 living in care homes
British men are three times as likely as British women to die by suicide
the UK has one of the highest rates of self harm in Europe, at 400 per 100,000 population
only one in 10 prisoners do not have a mental disorder http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk
people with mental health problems are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than other disabled people. (NIMHE 2003)
40% of people who are unable to work as a result of poor mental health are on incapacity benefit.
evidence demonstrates that assisting people to return to work shows financial benefits in reducing the cost of benefit claims. A single person working for a full year, rather than claiming benefits, is contributing £20,000 to the Exchequer and over £33,000 into the economy. (Oxford Economics 2007)
College of Occupational Therapists (2008) Recovering ordinary lives: the strategy for occupational therapy in mental health services 2007-2017. London: COT.
Care Services Improvement Partnership, National Institute for Mental Health in England (2007) Mental health: new ways of working for everyone: developing and sustaining a flexible and capable workforce. London: Department of Health. Download PDF. Accessed on 16.02.11.
Mental Health Foundation
Accessed on 04.02.11
New Ways of Working [ca.2006] New ways of working for occupational therapists. [s.l.]: NWW. Available at:
Accessed 0n 03.02.11.
NHS Health Scotland (2010) Realising potential, an action plan for allied health professionals in mental health. Edinburgh: Scottish Government. Available at:
Accessed on 16.02.11.
College of Occupational Therapists, National Social Inclusion Programme (2007) Work matters: vocational navigation for occupational therapy staff. London: COT.
Morley M (2010) Engaging in the quality metrics agenda: a mental health occupational therapy perspective. Presented at the College of Occupational Therapists 34th annual conference and exhibition, plus specialist sections’ annual conferences: HIV/ AIDS, Oncology, Palliative Care, and Older People, 22-25 June 2010, Brighton Centre, Brighton, Sussex.
College of Occupational Therapists (2010) Working for health: occupational therapy and how it can benefit your organisation. London: COT.
College of Occupational Therapists (2008) Occupational therapy and stress: advice on how to overcome work-related stress. London: COT. (Leaflet).
National Institute for Mental Health in England (2003) Employment for people with mental health problems. (Expert Briefing, Summer 2003). London: NIHME.
Oxford Economics (2007) Mental health and the UK economy. Oxford: Oxford Economics. Available at:
Accessed on 07.02.11.
Schene AH, Koeter MW, Kikkert MJ, Swinkels JA, McCrone P (2007) Adjuvant occupational therapy for work related depression works; randomised trial including economic evaluation. Psychological Medicine, 37(3), 351-362.
Bourne S, Hogg R, Whitehouse N, Bertram M (2007) From therapy to vocation. A Life in the Day, 11(3), 11-14.
College of Occupational Therapists (2006) Mental health and social exclusion: the National Social Inclusion Programme. (COT/BAOT Briefings No. 63) London: COT.
– See more at: http://www.cot.co.uk/video/mental-health/occupational-therapists-provide-cost-effective-solutions-mental-health-services#sthash.pEmc0sIA.dpuf