Ref: CHB/HB/48/15                                                                        


In the ancient times, occupations were used as a method of therapy. Greek physicians initiated humane treatment of patients with mental illness using therapeutic baths, massage, exercise and music (Quiroga, 1995). During the 18th-19th century, revolutionaries reformed hospital systems where work and leisure activities were enforced as treatment rather than metal chains and restraints. This was the era of moral and enlightenment where the roots of occupational therapy were first discovered in the early decades of the 20th century (Peloquin, S, 1989).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Mental Health is a state of well-being in which an individual is aware of his/her abilities, can cope with normal life stresses, work productively and can contribute to their community (WHO, 2010). While mental illness is recognized as a significant impairment of an individual’s cognitive and affective ability (Jake Epp, 2009). Mental disorders result from biological, developmental or psychosocial factors that can be managed using therapeutic approaches. The three most significant detriments of mental health are: social inclusion, freedom from discrimination and violence, and access to economic resources.
Depression is a common illness that affects people of all ages. Depression may occur for no apparent reason, or may be the result of a stressful life event, for example, getting divorced, becoming a parent, having a physical health problem, being a carer or experiencing a bereavement.


Older people are sometimes perceived in a positive light, as active members of the community, loyal, sociable and warm. However, negative perceptions tend to predominate. As people live longer, the population of older people is growing significantly. This brings with it many social, political and economic challenges.  It becomes increasingly important to gain an insight and understanding into how older people are perceived by the community as it is from these perceptions and attitudes that ageist behaviors, discrimination and mistreatment of older people can develop.
The older generation is often viewed as a medical and economic burden, and we are reminded of the financial drain. By way of guilt, the physical and social needs of the older people are given some provision. However, minimal attention has been paid to their psychological needs. By denying the emotional life of an elderly, the imagined pain and fear of age and life’s end can be conveniently denied to us. To be old, dependent and mentally challenged is a terrifying prospect. One can live and recover from a mental illness; in a sense where one is stable and regained their role/occupation.
Occupational therapy plays a great role in mental health. Bearing in mind the therapy is client centered based; whatever is of great concern and importance for the client is highlighted and worked with. They evaluate and adapt the environment at home, work, school to promote an individuals optimal function. They facilitate development of life skills required for independent living such as managing ones home, time, social participation, motor processing skills, medication and being safe at home. Therapists also provide educational programs or classes to address assertiveness, self-awareness, social skills, stress management and relaxation therapy. They provide training in activities of daily living such as hygiene and grooming and also assist in sensory processing deficits.

Occupational therapists work with a multidisciplinary team of professionals working together to assist individuals on their road of recovery. While the role of occupational therapist may over lap with other professionals it does however, provide a unique theoretical and clinical contribution to the treatment and recovery of the individual. Occupational therapy should be considered a vital part of comprehensive and integrated treatment program.

Article contributed by:
Fathema Hasham
Occupational Therapist

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