Mental Health Dietitian Ambassador
Q: What are your goals for Equally Well? What inspires you about Equally Well?A: It is truly encouraging to see such a united front from an extensive range of supporters. Equally Well will certainly help to make equality in standard of health care and physical health status a reality in people living with mental illness.
Q: How do you see Equally Well benefiting carers/consumers/practitioners?A: As a national body, Equally Well is a voice for change which influence policy makers, practitioners and the wider community. Equally Well is supported by such an extensive list of departments and organisations, all driving the Equally Well consensus statement. Equally Well’s focus on integration of mind and body care, combined with a focus on prevention, early intervention, and ongoing recovery support for both mental and physical health, can facilitate real-world changes for a better model of care.
Q: What hurdles do you currently see Equally Well facing and will have to face in the future? Is there a particular area you believe needs more focus that Equally Well can develop on?A: Change can be a difficult process. One key challenge is turning the literature and policies into real-world changes across all mental health services. Barriers such as stretched clinicians unable to prioritise physical health, or feeling under skilled, or mental health services adjusting to the implementation of a new team or physical health specific clinicians, can often be present. We can learn from both successful and unsuccessful programs across Australia and internationally, to assist helping people living with mental illness thrive.
Q: What have you personally learnt and has this knowledge impacted your life and/or the lives of those around you?A: I have learnt that change is possible, whether it is a person living with a serious mental health condition making significant improvements in their physical health and quality of life, to a mental health service transitioning to make to physical health a priority and effectively implementing a specialist team to assist as adjunctive care.
Q: As an Equally Well Ambassador, you are an advocate for improving the physical health of those who suffer from a mental illness, since the symposium, have there been any new developments or research in your field?A: 2019 has certainly been encouraging. The Lancet Psychiatry published our commission: A blueprint for protecting physical health in people with mental illness, a culmination of the increasing research in this area. As a dietitian it was important to see nutrition listed as a core component of this report as nutrition and physical health are inherently linked. Whilst, food choices will remain a key focus, research will continue into the future to gain a greater understanding of the eating behaviour challenges, and how factors such as socio-economic disadvantage may facilitate issues such as food insecurity and subsequent unhealthy dietary intake. This will ultimately lead to improved support strategies.
Q: What do you see is your role for Equally Well as one of our ambassadors?A: I look forward to aiding this united voice and looking for opportunities to drive real-world changes to ultimately improve the quality of life for people living with mental illness and their families or carers. I will use my connection with the nutrition field to help facilitate an effective collaboration between nutrition and dietetics, and mental health.