Carolynne White

Occupational Therapy Ambassador

Carolynne White

Q: What are your goals for Equally Well? What inspires you about Equally Well?

A: Equally Well provides an opportunity for organisations and individuals to come together to make a real contribution to promote the physical and mental health and social well-being of people who experience mental health issues. My goal for Equally Well is to consider how we can understand and address the upstream determinants, such as stigma, employment, gender, and access to health care, that contribute to the physical health inequities of people living with mental ill-health.

Q: How do you see Equally Well benefiting carers/consumers/practitioners?

A: Equally Well will empower consumers and carers and enable them to receive more holistic health care. It also encourages practitioners to genuinely apply person-centred principles in practice, which will ultimately benefit everyone.

Q: What hurdles do you currently see Equally Well facing and will have to face in the future? Is there a particular area you believe needs more focus that Equally Well can develop on?

A: One of the major hurdles is that most physical health promotion campaigns and interventions have not been designed with people’s mental health in mind. Rather than simply adopting campaigns and interventions that have been designed for the general population, existing interventions need to be reviewed and revised or new interventions developed and tested to ensure that they meet the needs of people experiencing mental ill-health and do not exacerbate existing inequities or cause harm. One of these areas is addressing weight-related concerns in a way that validates people’s experiences of medication-related weight gain, while encouraging people to respect their body and engage in behaviours and activities that support their overall physical and mental health and social well-being.

Q: What have you personally learnt and has this knowledge impacted your life and/or the lives of those around you?

A: My PhD research explored the relationships between the activities and occupations and health and well-being of adults living with multiple health conditions. I learned that living with physical and mental health conditions can be a juggling act and that people may value their health and well-being differently to health professionals. I learned that people’s capacity to influence their health and well-being through their daily activities may be supported or limited by the environments in which they live. Creating supportive environments, especially in health care, is key to improving the physical health of people living with mental ill-health.

Q: As an Equally Well Ambassador, you are an advocate for improving the physical health of those who suffer from a mental illness, since the symposium, have there been any new developments or research in your field?

A: Since the Equally Well symposium, in my role as a health promotion lecturer, I have been raising students’ awareness of the co-occurrence of physical and mental health conditions and the need to consider the impact of physical health campaigns and interventions on people’s mental health. In my role as president of HAES® Australia (Health at Every Size®), I have presented at the Mental Health Professionals Network about how HAES® provides a holistic and empowering way of promoting people’s physical and mental health.

Q: What do you see is your role for Equally Well as one of our ambassadors?

A: As one of the Equally Well ambassadors, my role will be to raise awareness of the physical health inequalities faced by people with mental ill-health and work with consumers, carers, community members, health professionals and policy makers to develop ways to promote health in a holistic way.   


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