Project Description

The report is produced by Centre for Mental Health, Rethink Mental Illness and the Association of Mental Health Providers. It 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.

Service users shared their experiences of weight management, which included: the difficulties of remaining motivated during fluctuations in their mental health; the complicated ways in which their eating was related to their emotions; and the lack of long-term support. We also heard from practitioners and commissioners about some of the challenges of providing weight management support to people with severe mental illness.

These included: competing priorities, with attention being focused on the psychiatric side of care often at the expense of issues such as weight; and lack of clarity about who is responsible for coordinating physical health care of people with severe mental illness.

Even without these additional challenges, sustained weight loss is hard to achieve. Our research suggests that, if this is the only criterion of success, services are setting people up for failure which, in turn, can lead them to become discouraged and feel a sense of hopelessness about weight management. More promising, however, are efforts that take the emphasis off numbers (e.g. kilograms lost or reductions in BMI)

and instead prioritise weight gain prevention, setting achievable goals, and building people’s intrinsic motivation to adopt healthier behaviours.

Last updated: 1st May, 2020