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In addition to supporting physical well-being, good nutrition can play a significant role in improving mental health.
Nutrition may sometimes be overlooked as part of treatment in mental health conditions, according to Erin Rudolph and Holly Dickinson, Registered Dietitians in the Eating Disorder Program and Inpatient Mental Health Unit at Toronto General Hospital (TG).
World Mental Health Day is Oct. 10. To mark the occasion, Erin and Holly emphasize the importance of understanding how good nutrition can improve mental health, especially for people living with mental illness.
"It's important for those working with patients who struggle with mental illness to understand the nutritional needs of those struggling with altered thought processes, unstable moods, learning disabilities, dangerous food habits and who also may be at risk of harming themselves or others," Erin says.
"I truly believe food is our medicine," Holly says. "It's always rewarding to see patients put this philosophy into practice on the road to their physical and mental health recovery."
What is the relationship between food and mental health?
Erin and Holly lead nutrition-related groups for patients such as nutrition education, meal planning, eating skills, meal support and individual nutrition counselling.
Providing nutrition support to those who suffer from mental health conditions is a complex task, Erin says.
Often times people are managing a major mental health illness while also managing a physical medical condition. For example, those who suffer from schizophrenia might also struggle with diabetes, and those who struggle with an eating disorder might also struggle with an addiction.
Here are some things to remember when considering the relationship between food and mental health:
More resources for World Mental Health Day
If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please go to your nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1.
If you need mental health support over the phone, call the Mental Health Helpline: 1-866-531-2600.