People with serious mental illness can achieve
significant weight loss with the help of a
behavioural weight-loss intervention. A new John Hopkins research proves
that serious mental illness is not a barrier to successful weight-loss. A
programme that focuses on simple messages and goals and involves regular
exercises can help the mentally challenged to stay healthy and lose weight.
Despite the knowledge that persons with
serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major
depression are more vulnerable to the complications associated with obesity,
they remain grossly neglected. They are always excluded from weight-loss
trials. The prevalence of obesity in this group of people is nearly twice that
of the overall population. Hence, they carry an increased burden of weight-related
diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels and
certain cancers. Deaths due to heart disease appear to be common in them.
Serious mental illness makes a person
more prone to physical inactivity and unhealthy diets. Many of the drugs used
to treat mental illness have weight gain as side effect; most work by
of lifestyle interventions in the group is indeed not an easy task. With
impaired memory and executive functions, it is difficult to make them learn and
adopt new behaviours. Reduced access to healthy foods and lack of affordable,
safe places to exercise is another difficulty when the person has a low
socioeconomic status. The stigma associated with mental illness prevents many
from participating in mainstream leisure-time physical activities. Concerns
about adherence and ability of people with mental disorders to participate in
groups prevented researchers from including them in any of the
lifestyle-intervention trials. Limited studies had been done so far which
involved the mentally challenged.
new research, perhaps the first large study of its kind, involved 291
overweight or obese participants who had diseases like schizophrenia, bipolar
disorder and major depression
. All of them were
recruited from 10 community psychiatric rehabilitation outpatient programs.
They were randomly grouped into two. One group received tailored group and
individual weight-management sessions and group exercise sessions, while the
other served as a control for the study.
reduction in weight was recorded over a period of 18 months; the intervention
thus proved to be a success. Tailored programmes can thus break the barriers
that previously isolated the mentally challenged from losing weight in a
. It is finally possible to help them to lose weight and stay
healthy. Psychiatric rehabilitation facilities may very well adopt the
Reference: A Behavioral Weight-Loss Intervention
in Persons with Serious Mental Illness; Gail Daumit et al; March, 2013.