Review Article

Mental health education for physiotherapists: A scoping review

Marilyn Hooblaul, Thayananthee Nadasan, Olagbegi M. Oladapo
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 29 | a2127 | DOI: | © 2023 Marilyn Hooblaul, Thayananthee Nadasan, Olagbegi M. Oladapo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 June 2023 | Published: 01 December 2023

About the author(s)

Marilyn Hooblaul, Faculty of Physiotherapy, Ekuhlengeni Psychiatric Hospital, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, Umbogintwini, South Africa
Thayananthee Nadasan, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Olagbegi M. Oladapo, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


Background: Physiotherapists play an integral role in the management of people living with a mental illness, yet little is known about their knowledge, attitudes and perceptions about mental health globally and particularly in South Africa.

Aim: The purpose of the study is to map global evidence on mental health education for physiotherapists, including their knowledge, attitude and perceptions, with the goal of using this information to design an improved undergraduate curriculum for physiotherapy in South Africa.

Setting: The search was focused on the South African and global context, with the participants as physiotherapists and physiotherapy students.

Methods: The methodical framework proposed by Arksey and O’Malleys guided the scoping review. The online search used five electronic databases. An expert librarian assisted in the search strategy. English language, primary research articles that investigated physiotherapist or physiotherapy students’ knowledge, attitude and perceptions towards mental health were sought.

Results: The search strategy extracted 226 published studies and 15 studies were included in the analysis. The results indicated that globally physiotherapists and physiotherapy students had limited knowledge about mental health. Improved attitudes were noted with a mental health training intervention. Negative perceptions were associated with limited knowledge.

Conclusion: There was limited literature on the influence of education on mental health in physiotherapy on attitudes and perceptions. Physiotherapists desired more knowledge about mental health because of the prevalence of mental health disorders.

Contribution: Because of the increasing prevalence of mental illness globally, the findings of this review suggest the necessity of integrating mental health content in the physiotherapists’ undergraduate programme to provide high-quality care physiotherapy management for people with mental illnesses.


mental health; physiotherapy; knowledge; attitude; perceptions

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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