Nutrition’s role in mental health care

Some of the key professionals in the management of mental health are Accredited Practising Dietitians, says Dietitians Australia.

While it’s well known that nutrition support is essential within the overall management of mental health, according to Dietitians Australia CEO, Robert Hunt it is “most effective when it is delivered by a dietitian”.

“Australians nationwide must have timely access to skilled mental health professionals, and we urge the government to acknowledge the need for dietetic services, particularly in prevention and early intervention of mental illness.”

Mr Hunt says that APDs are critical in a number of mental health areas, including in “challenging eating practices for a person living with an eating disorder, supporting someone to manage the side-effects of their medication, helping a client to access nutritious foods or using medical nutrition therapy to help prevent and manage a mental illness”.

But to see a real health change, the government needs to make it easier for Australians to see their dietitian via Medicare referral pathways and community-based government-funded initiatives.

“With the government’s draft National Mental Health Workforce strategy due to be finalised later this year, forgetting to focus on how to support Australians through food-based strategies, would be detrimental to our population’s health,” says Mr Hunt.

Investing in dietitians means savings across the healthcare system.

“With almost half of all Australians expected to experience a mental illness in their lifetime, support from a dietitian is likely to result in a reduced burden on the healthcare system and better quality of life for our population,” continues Mr Hunt.

“Research shows that with support from a dietitian, people diagnosed with clinical depression were able to significantly reduce their mental health symptoms by making changes to their diet.

“These dietary changes are also likely to help reduce the risk of lifestyle-related health conditions like heart disease, diabetes … [and] gut health.

“We know that physical and mental health are intertwined, and we must have a workforce strategy to address overall health, rather than singling out these areas in isolation,” says Mr Hunt.

If you think you may be experiencing a mental health illness, please reach out to your local healthcare team for support.

For those based in Australia, 24-hour mental health support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

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