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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Food (Security) for Thought: What's Mental Health Got to Do With It?

October 4 to 10, 2015 is Mental Health Awareness Week!

Held on the first week of October, this campaign focuses attention on mental disorders: signs and symptoms, stigma, how to get help, hope and recovery, and the impact of mental illness on lives, families, workplaces, and society (Source: Canadian Mental Health Association).

http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/Did you know? October 10 is World Mental Health Day!

Some of you may have experienced or know someone who has experienced mental illness. Maybe it was depression, anxiety, Alzheimer's, anorexia, or dementia. Bipolar disorder? Schizophrenia?

Mental illness is more common than many of us might think, but the stigma surrounding it often keeps the conversations silent and can make it difficult to know where to go for help.

What does this have to do with food security?

Food insecurity can be both an outcome and a cause of poor mental health and mental illness. Members of food insecure households tend to have poorer self-rated health, greater stress, and poorer mental and physical health.

Mental illness can impact a person's ability to provide enough food for themselves and their households by making it more difficult to work, maintain relationships with family and friends, and keep a supportive network. Without steady income or social support, food insecurity is more likely to occur.

This relationship between food security and mental illness, however, is not just one way.

A 2012 study found that adolescents who were food insecure in the past year were more likely to experience mental disorders compared to those whose families had reliable access to food. Lack of reliable access to enough food was linked to an increased risk for adolescent mental disorders, even after factoring for the effects of poverty.

People who live in low-income households and poverty conditions are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts and have poorer mental health outcomes. As food security worsens, so does mental health.

So, Let's Talk

Talking is the best way to start breaking down barriers, halt misconceptions, and end the stigma surrounding mental illness. Learn the facts, help educate others, and take the first step to a better understanding of mental health.

If you are in crisis, please go to your local hospital or call 911 immediately. If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, call one of the networks below for support or guidance on seeking help in your area.

Kids Help Phone 1(800) 668-6868

Canadian Mental Health Association (604) 688-3236 (BC Division) or Find your local CMHA


Billingsley, M. (2012). Food insecurity predicts mental health problems in adolescents. (Article)

Canadian Mental Health Association. (n.d.). Awareness Weeks. https://www.cmha.bc.ca/get-informed/events/awareness-weeks

Leung, C. W., Epel, E. S., Willett, W. C., Rimm, E. B., & Laraia, B. A. (2015). Household food insecurity is positively associated with depression among low-income Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants and income-eligible nonparticipants. American Society for Nutrition, 145(3), 622-627. (Link)

McLaughlin, K. A., Green, J. G., Alegría, M., Costello, E. J., Gruber, M. J., Sampson, N. A., & Kessler, R. C. (2012). Food insecurity and mental disorders in a national sample of US adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(12), 1293-1303. (Link)
PROOF. (n.d.). Health, nutrition and food insecurity. (Article)

World Federation for Mental Health. http://www.wfmh.org/

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