Notre Dame and Richmond Fellowship WA partner to help people have healthy bodies and healthy minds

Students Services Coordinator at Richmond Fellowship WA, Warren Smailes, Tanya Blee and Adrian Munro with Notre Dame's Exercise Physiology students..

21 February 2014

The University of Notre Dame Australia and community service organisation Richmond Fellowship WA (RFWA) are joining forces to launch a practicum placement program which will help people with mental illnesses improve their health and get the most out of life.

This new initiative, which commences in March, will see RFWA residents supported by fourth year Notre Dame Exercise Physiology students to become more physically active through exercise programs aimed at boosting their mobility and mental stimulation.

The Richmond Fellowship is a non-government organisation that provides accommodation and support services to people with a diagnosable mental illness.

Tanya Blee, Coordinator of Postgraduate Exercise Science at Notre Dame's Fremantle Campus, sees this as an opportunity for Exercise Physiology students to develop skills in prescribing suitable exercise programs for individuals experiencing mental health distress.

"Latest research has found that while medication undoubtedly plays a key role in the treatment of mental health conditions, exercise programs are crucial in improving both the physical and mental health outcomes of people with a mental illness through increased self-confidence, decreased stress, decreased blood pressure and increased relaxation," Ms Blee said.

"Studies further showed that 60 per cent of people halved their depression score by exercising regularly and more than 40 per cent remained that way for three months.

"This experience will develop students' skills in communication, listening and empathy as well as introducing exercise physiology to mental health workers in a residential setting and helping them to understand the value of combined treatment."

Through the partnership, Notre Dame's Exercise Physiology students will also learn from RFWA staff on how mental health can impact someone's life.

RFWA staff will also have the chance to learn from the students and consider how RFWA can provide a more holistic service.

Adrian Munro, Executive Manager Operations RFWA, stated that the initiative shows that RFWA is committed to improving the physical health and wellbeing of its residents and that it was eager to offer residents the services of an increasing number of health care professionals, as well as community services.

Exercise & Sports Science Australia has flagged mental health as a future area where Exercise Physiology students must gain competency to become accredited.

Leigh Dawson: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093;