Why are dietitian services important in mental health care?
Nutrition interventions, provided by dietitians working in mental health care, can lead to:
- Reduced nutrition-related side effects of psychiatric medications
- Better self-management of health conditions
- Improved mental and physical health
When nutrition programs are included as part of mental health care, they can enhance social inclusion, self-reliance, food security, and healthy body image, while reducing health and social inequities.
Dietitians are integral to treating eating disorders, the mental illness with the highest mortality rate, along with other mental health conditions such as depression and autism. Nutrient deficiencies can significantly impact mental health across the lifespan.
Read Naomi’s story to see how a dietitian helped her recovery from an eating disorder
Advocacy for dietitians in mental health care
Here’s what DC would like to see happen in mental health services:
- Recognition of the connection between nutrition and mental health.
- Recognition of the need for dietitians on mental health care teams.
- Nutrition screening and assessment for mental health clients.
- Access to dietitian services for mental health clients in community and inpatient programs.
- Policies to support food access, food skills, and healthy eating education.
- Ongoing evaluation to identify best practices to grow the evidence base for nutrition in mental health care.
Recent advocacy actions:
DC advocates for increased access to dietitian services in mental health care in pre-budget submissions, election campaigns, and ongoing government engagement. Here are some recent actions:
- July 2019: DC published a report on how dietitians can bridge the gap for a sustainable mental health care system in Ontario.
- June 2019: DC made a submission to British Columbia’s pre-budget consultation that recommended investing $500,000 to pilot dietitian staffing in mental health clinics.
- June 2016: DC submitted letters to Health Quality Ontario in response to a consultation related to dementia, schizophrenia and depression, recommending that individuals with mental health conditions should be screened and referred as needed to a dietitian.
- March 2015: DC collaborated with the Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario and the University of British Columbia to publish a report that identifies research priorities to address gaps in nutrition care in community mental health settings.
- November 2012: DC, along with a team of dietitians, published an extensive 3-part report for policy makers and other interested stakeholders. The report describes the relationship between mental health and nutrition, and the role of dietitians in mental health care.
What can you do to learn more or get involved in mental health advocacy?