Your web browser is outdated and may be insecure

The RCN recommends using an updated browser such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome

Physical health and mental illness

Physical health in mental illness

People with a mental illness are more likely to have a preventable physical condition such as cardiovascular disease, and to die earlier than the rest of the population. Nurses working in all settings can work with these people to improve their outcomes.

The Royal College of Nursing’s Mental Health forum steering group has collaborated with the charity, the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust to create this resource for nurses. Dr Sheila Hardy is a dual trained nurse who researched physical health in severe mental illness for her PhD. 

Sheila presents below, three short sessions with the aim of encouraging nurses to be proactive in considering the physical health needs of people with mental illness.

Presentation 1 still

Session one

The physical health needs of people with mental illness are often overlooked by those caring for them. This session explains why looking after physical health is essential for overall wellbeing and why people with mental illness may need more help than the general population.
Mental health knovio presentation 2

Session two

Patients report that they are not supported to change poor health behaviours. The aim of this session is to encourage nurses to think about what they can do to enhance the physical health of people with mental illness in their care.

This session includes two films. Watch them both and reflect on which approach works better.
Mental health knovio presentation 3

Session three

There are many documents regarding the physical health of people with mental illness. The aim of this session is to help nurses understand which ones will best help them to improve the physical health of the patients in their care.
Charlie Waller logo

Further resources

  • The Charlie Waller Trust enables people to understand and talk openly about mental health, maintain and enhance their mental wellbeing, and have the confidence to seek help when they need it
  • Dropbox- extensive supporting materials are available in this shared file
Parity of Esteem

Parity of esteem

Parity of esteem describes the need to value mental health equally to physical health. People with complex mental health needs should have the same access to health care services and support as people with physical health needs.

Page last updated - 18/06/2022