Research over the past decade has revealed serious health risks associated with mental illnesses and addictions. Individuals living with these conditions are more likely to die early from complications from untreated, preventable chronic illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. In addition, some psychotropic medications can contribute to weight gain, putting people with mental illness at higher risk for obesity and related conditions, including diabetes and high cholesterol. Facing such grave outcomes, how can we make a meaningful difference?
Good nutrition can positively impact mood, decrease anxiety and stress, and improve sleep, making it important to consider the nutritional needs of individuals with behavioral health concerns. When thinking about creating better health habits with clients, it is possible to make small, incremental changes. For example, instead of thinking, “how can clinicians help clients to stop eating poorly?” clinicians can instead ask, “How can we help Joe meet his goal of eating one vegetarian meal a week?”
Eating healthy can be costly and a difficult transition to make, but living an unhealthy lifestyle can also result in significant physical and financial costs. The resources and stories below can help make these lifestyle changes easier, while staying mindful of strict budgets.
Tips for Staying Healthy
Here are 10 resources to make staying healthy a little easier – while staying on a budget!
- ChooseMyPlate.gov contains extensive resources on healthy eating. These tools help you better understand the variety, amount and nutrition of the foods and beverages you choose.
- NEW-R is a program that targets weight management and other health needs of people with psychiatric disabilities.
- The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers a variety of tip sheets and activities in English and Spanish that clinicians can share with clients.
- Mental Health America offers information on healthy eating with mental health in mind.
- Spend Smart. Eat Smart. is an app to help save money on groceries by using a comparison calculator to find healthy bargains.
- Tipsheet: Healthy Eating Starts With Healthy Food Shopping provides examples of quick, low-fat food items.
- Spending Less, Eating Better is a shopper’s guide to buy healthy foods, plan meals, and read food labels.
- The American Association of Diabetes Educators describes how diabetes self-management education is reimbursable in most states’ Medicaid programs. For Medicaid beneficiaries, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) can bill Medicare for outpatient diabetes self-management training and medical nutrition therapy for beneficiaries with diabetes or renal disease furnished by qualified practitioners.
- Weight Management Strategies for Adults and Youth with Behavioral Health Conditions is a review from the University of Colorado that outlines additional strategies organizations can take to address healthy eating for both adults and youth with behavioral health conditions.
- Diabetes toolkit holds information to help better understand diabetes or pre-diabetes. These resources are also geared to care providers, family members and other supporters.
Looking for more information?
Beyond individual education, integrated primary and behavioral health care clinics can focus on healthy eating by offering groups, classes, and partnership opportunities.
Trinitas, a SAMHSA Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration (PBHCI) grantee in the Elizabeth, New Jersey area partnered with a registered dietician to incorporate healthy cooking through a nutrition cooking class where she brings in ingredients which are reflective of the affordability of the clients and taste. In the class, clients prepare and enjoy a nutritious meal together. This nutrition class allows the clients to prepare meals that are affordable and fit into the culture of the demographics served. Clients have the opportunity to create healthier versions of the food they love.
Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center, a SAMHSA Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration (PBHCI) grantee in the Bridgewater, New Jersey area, is working with clients create their own recipes for the nutrition group. Clients submit personal recipes to create a group cookbook. The clients will assemble one cookbook comprised of recipes from the group. The cookbook recognizes the importance of recipes that clients make every day in their personal lives. The cookbook activity turns to clients to be the experts of their own food choices. Clients are empowered to adapt the recipes to be healthier for them and their families.