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New Report on SMI and Weight Management

People living with severe mental illness want effective and personalised help to manage their weight, according to a new report published today by Association of Mental Health Providers, Centre for Mental Health, Rethink Mental Illness, MindOut on behalf of The National LGB&T Partnership, and Race Equality Foundation.

The report was commissioned by the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance (HWA), a partnership between the Department of Health, NHS England, and Public Health England, and 20 national voluntary sector organisations and consortia, and explores the experiences of people living with severe mental illness being supported to manage their weight.

People living with severe mental illness have a 15-20 year shorter life expectancy than the general population, are more at risk of becoming overweight than average, and are at a far higher risk of physical illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.

More than a Number finds that people with severe mental illness received little effective help to manage their weight. For some, taking mental health medication leads to rapid weight gain, yet few are offered help to prevent this or even made aware it might happen. And for people who have gained weight, there is little help on hand and little understanding of the causes of weight gain. Where support is offered, it often sets people up to fail by focusing solely on reducing their weight or BMI rather than on manageable goals such as eating more healthily, spending more time outdoors or taking up a physical activity.

The reports conclude that people with severe mental illness need access to personalised and holistic help with weight management. This means taking steps early on to help to prevent weight gain, while for people who need help to lose weight, it should start with achievable goals and focus on activities that people will enjoy.