Innovative resources for clients with mental illness
Innovative resources for clients with mental illness (Carrington Health News)

Pictured: Carrington Health Dietitian Anne Netherway with Deakin Dietetics students Fiona Moncrieff and Meg Skelton

Run for the last three years by Carrington Health in partnership with Neami, the Healthier Lifestyles program recognises that people with mental illness may experience unwanted weight gain due to their medications and the wider health ramifications of their illness. The program has expanded recruitment to include Eastern Health Mental Health (EHMH) clients for the first time this year and based on key insights, we recently developed innovative new resources to promote healthy eating to those with severe mental health issues (including bipolar disease, schizophrenia, major depression and major anxiety disorders).

Through our initial project work, we identified that support workers and case managers of those with severe mental illness also function as their principal healthcare provider, acting as a key support for clients who wish to make  changes to their eating habits and/or physical activity levels. After initially surveying the Neami Community Rehabilitation Support Workers and EHMH Central East Continuing Care Team Case Managers, there was found to be high demand for services and materials to target this group as these workers often lack necessary resources to support their clients in this area.

A key insight revealed that those with mental illness are  likely to have poorer cognitive ability to comprehend information and poorer health literacy skills. As a result, this piece of work sourced, adapted and developed (low literacy) pictorial resources for those with serious mental health issues. During a recent placement, Deakin University dietetics students played a key role with this project by conducting a literature review; locating, adapting and developing resources then utilising a number of literacy  tools to test them. Resource development and testing was also conducted by seeking consumer feedback via clients from Carrington Health, Neami and EHMC Central East.

This work strengthens our partnerships by engaging with  the mental health sector to support the promotion of  physical health. Through it we have broadened the access and reach of the program and developed useful and innovative resources for this target group, currently being piloted with Neami (Blackburn and Kew) and EHMH Central East Community Care Team. We will further promote these materials amongst other relevant partners and stakeholders once resource evaluation is complete.

For more information contact Anne Netherway on (03) 8843 2325 or email

Carrington Health has received funding from Inner East Melbourne Medicare Local (IEMML) for the Healthier Lifestyle project.

Did you know?

It is estimated that 45% of Australians will experience mental illness at some stage in their life. Alarming statistics revealed that in 2010, only 20% of people with severe mental illness accessed GP services and only 7% accessed community health services.

A further complication of these statistics is that there is at least a two-fold increase in the prevalence of chronic disease in people with mental illness including obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease.

Source: Carrington Health Service Newsletter Winter 2015

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