New resources address the longevity gap for people living with mental illness

July 26, 2023
Announcements Keeping the Body in Mind Mental Health

Mental health consumers and their treating clinicians will benefit from a comprehensive suite of resources, released today, that present evidence-based guidance for managing the physical health effects associated with severe mental health conditions.

The free resources are intended to improve the cardiometabolic health of people who live with psychotic conditions including schizophrenia, said Professor Jackie Curtis, the Executive Director of Mindgardens Neuroscience Network, which developed and published them.

“People with severe mental health conditions still die, on average, up to 15 years earlier than other people in our community,” Professor Curtis said, primarily from heart disease, diabetes and related disorders that result from lifestyle factors and medication side-effects. “This gap is indefensible, and by making these resources available we hope we can make a real difference to the length and quality of people’s lives.”

The resources, which were launched today in Sydney by NSW Minister for Mental Health, The Hon. Rose Jackson MLC, at the Equally Well 2023 Symposium, include:

Development of the resources was funded by the NSW Mental Health Commission. Commissioner Catherine Lourey said, “We are so pleased to be able to support this work. The brilliant resources from Professor Jackie Curtis’s Mindgardens team provide easily accessible information to support health professionals providing physical health care to people with a lived experience of a mental illness. Importantly, the package also supports and promotes physical health self-efficacy”

The resources form part of the Keeping the Body in Mind(gardens) research program, which is extending the evidence base for good physical health care for mental health consumers. Working alongside the Keeping the Body in Mind Program, for consumers living in the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, the researchers have developed new protocols for supporting people to quit smoking and vaping, and increasing vaccination rates. They have also extended the program to meet the needs of people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds, and to GP clinics as well as specialist mental health services.

Professor Curtis said, “Our research has shown that the cardiometabolic effects of living with severe mental illness are not inevitable, and even after they have developed they can still be reversed. These resources empower individual consumers, and the clinicians who work with them, to take control of their physical health so they are not held back by disabling symptoms and can focus instead on careers, study, hobbies, relationships or whatever they find most meaningful – just like the rest of our community expects to.”

The Keeping the Body in Mind Resources can be accessed on the Mindgardens website.

The Keeping the Body in Mind(gardens) team were formally recognised and celebrated at the 2023 Equally Well Symposium, winning the inaugural Outstanding Team Effort award.