So what does a dietitian working in mental health and learning disabilities do? It is such an interesting and diverse job. In my 7 years in this job I can honestly say I’ve never been bored!
This morning I have been giving advice to a family who are trialling an exclusion diet with their son who has a learning disability, to see if it improves his bowel problems.
I was then contacted by the catering team at Charlton Lane to ask for guidance on a low potassium diet for a service user with hyperkalaemia.
I provided some food fortification information for the recovery team to take out to a patient who has recently been discharged from in-patient services as I have some concerns as to whether he will eat regularly.
In the post today I have received the latest Carbohydrate Counting workbook from my specialist diabetes colleagues. I will use this to support a service user who is struggling with their insulin and eating regime on the ward at Wotton Lawn.
In between responding to individual clinical queries and referrals, I have been putting together a training package on ‘Eating Well for Adults with a Learning Disability’ for delivery later in the year. The training has been commissioned for 8 sessions, so will be delivered to 240 support workers in the community to help them prevent and manage nutritional problems for the people they support.
We are also awaiting the upload of a new podcast aimed at supporting people who are starting antipsychotic medications with managing their weight. The podcast was recorded with two Experts by Experience who provided lots of really positive messages on how people can manage this debilitating side effect, which is thought to be the second most common reason for medication non-compliance. Following this we are hoping to get a project up and running to support people being discharged from Wotton Lawn hospital to eat well on returning home. This project is led by an Expert by Experience who has first-hand experience of the barriers to eating well following discharge, and the direct benefits of eating well on his own mental health.
The links between diet and mental health are so diverse and far reaching that I could never succinctly summarise them in a blog, so here is a summary I like from the Dietitians of Canada which shows how varied the interventions a mental health dietitian might be involved in really are.
More and more evidence is emerging that the benefits of tailored nutritional support in the treatment of mental health disorders are huge. I really hope that dietitians can become a more standard feature in all mental health teams and that service users can benefit from the advice we have to offer.