Work to nurture healthier diets and lifestyles is helping improve the overall wellbeing and increase the life expectancy of people with serious and enduring mental health needs.
This has seen mental health dietitian Brad Brosnan join the team at Te Korowai Whariki – the regional forensic and rehabilitation inpatient mental health service.
“People with serious and enduring mental health needs face many nutritional challenges, ranging from low budgets and lack of confidence to poor knowledge of nutrition and how to prepare a healthy meal,” he said.
“Medications for managing mental health also often have side-effects that influence hunger, sugar cravings, metabolism and energy. This can lead to physical problems and preventable heart attacks – a leading cause of the shorter life expectancy that people with mental health needs can experience.”
Dietary and lifestyle interventions are an important part of mental health recovery. The challenge is helping people with mental distress and trauma prioritise changing their diet or exercise behaviours.
Brad’s efforts include cooking with clients, offering ‘new’ healthy foods to try, holding team exercise programmes, supporting staff and clients with healthy food options, having healthy food at events – even sharing his lunch to show clients how easy it is to prepare healthy food themselves.
“It’s about making exercise and nutrition fun – making it easier for people to learn more about healthy food and grow more confident in their ability to prepare it.
“Now that we’ve laid the foundation of a healthier food and drink environment, we need to keep the ball rolling for the long-term benefit of these and future clients.”