The ESSENzPSYCHE network
Working together to maximize the opportunities for people with mental illness to lead a healthy lifestyle
People with severe mental illness have a lower life expectancy due to somatic comorbidities, such as metabolic syndrome, as well as tragic loss of life from suicide and physical health impairment from medications.
The metabolic syndrome (also called the lethal quartet) is considered (along with smoking) to be the decisive risk factor for arterial vascular disease and is characterized by the following risk factors: Hypertension, elevated blood lipids (triglycerides/HDL cholesterol), abdominal obesity, and insulin resistance.
Unfavorable lifestyle factors play an important role. However, prevention and treatment of physical illness has been neglected in mental health care. Against this background, relatives, affected persons and representatives of various professional groups (nutritionists, psychiatrists, psychologists) from Germany, Austria and Switzerland founded the ESSENzPSYCHE network in 2021, in which the LV BW ApK is also represented.
Together, the network aims to develop and implement nutrition-related interventions that can contribute to holistic care for people with mental illness, but also promote self-care for those affected. Central topics are early information, low-threshold access to the services and the strengthening of stamina and with regard to the professionals, further training, interprofessional cooperation, and the integration or connection of the services in existing care structures.
There are certainly more important issues than nutrition in the context of mental illness, for those affected and for relatives of people with mental illness. A healthy diet is important, but it is unlikely to solve all problems or bring about recovery from a severe, chronic mental illness.
And yet, nutrition is an important building block for our physical and mental health. The connection between nutrition and psyche is by no means far-fetched. In fact, scientists are increasingly dealing with this issue and have already been able to prove a causal relationship between nutrition and, for example, depression and schizophrenia. And it’s not just about prevention. Studies have shown that even when the disease has already occurred, the right diet can have a positive influence on the course of the disease and can be used for therapy.
“Diet and a healthy lifestyle-including sleep patterns, activity levels, and whether you get out of the house regularly and get fresh air and natural light-can have a big impact on your psyche,” says nutritionist Priya Tew. “If someone’s diet is mostly chips and chocolate and they only eat one meal a day, changing their diet can make a big difference.”
DDr.in Sabrina Mörkl is a specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapeutic medicine at the Medical University of Graz and a member of the ESSENzPSYCHE network. She studies the relationship between diet, gut and brain. Your free online course for patients and relatives on the subject of depression and healthy eating (duration: 72 min.) can be found