“Mental health is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health.” (World Health Organization, 2010) Nutrition initiatives, as part of collaborative programs for mental health promotion, can support and promote mental health by enhancing social inclusion, self-reliance, food security, and healthy body image, while reducing health and social inequities. Nutrition interventions, provided by registered dietitians to individuals with mental health conditions and their care providers, can lead to reduced nutrition-related side effects of psychiatric medications, better self-management of concurrent and comorbid conditions, and improved function overall.
- As experts advising on diet, food and nutrition, registered dietitians have an important role in mental health promotion, disease prevention and treatment of mental health conditions.
- Dietitians of Canada (DC), as the national professional association for dietitians, recognizes that all dietitians work either directly or indirectly in support of mental health.
- Recommendations for better integration of nutrition and mental health services include:
- advocacy in practice and policy
- support for training of health professionals
- collaboration in program planning
- screening and standards in nutrition and mental health
- continued research, addressing identified priorities.
In 2012, Dieititians of Canada published an extensive 3-part report describing the relationship between mental health and nutrition, which also included information about the role of dietitians providing services in mental health care. This report, Promoting Mental Health through Healthy Eating and Nutritional Care, was written by a team of dietitians specializing in mental health promotion and care. The document also provides policy makers, and other interested groups and individuals, with an evidence-based summary of the current literature about the promotion of mental health through healthy eating and nutritional care.
With support from a grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), following up on recommendations from the 2012 report, a multi-stakeholder consultation was subsequently led between 2013-2014, in collaboration among Dietitians of Canada (DC), Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario, and the University of British Columbia. The report, Dietitians and Community Mental Health: Setting the Research Agenda, published in 2015 summarizes what was learned from the consultation and outlines a research agenda aimed at optimizing nutrition and mental health services in community settings.
In June 2016, Dietitians of Canada (Ontario) submitted letters to Health Quality Ontario with feedback on consultation drafts of Quality Standard for Behavioural Symptoms of Dementia, Schizophrenia, and Major Depression, including the recommendation that all individuals with mental health conditions should be screened for nutrition issues and be referred as needed for a more systematic assessment by a Registered Dietitian.