The role of occupational therapists in the provision of dietary interventions for people with severe mental illness: Results from a national survey

Lauren Williams, Kirsti Haracz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


Introduction: People living with severe mental illness are at least twice as likely to be obese as the general population, partly due to lifestyle risk factors including poor diet quality. This study aims to quantify how Australian mental health occupational therapists address the dietary issues of people with severe mental illness. Method: A 23-item cross-sectional online survey was distributed via email to all members of Occupational Therapy Australia, with those working in mental health (an estimated 305 members) invited to participate. Response frequencies were analysed in SPSS. Open-ended comments were subjected to thematic analysis. Results: Eight-six eligible participants (28.2% of the target population) completed the full survey. Most (81%) felt confident in providing healthy eating advice, with 76% reporting being self-educated about nutrition. Dietitian support for complex advice was seen as beneficial by 88%, but only 30% reported reasonable access to dietitians. Qualitative themes included: Accessing dietitians, information and education, and putting advice into practice. Conclusion: There is potential to enhance the credentialling and continuing education of occupational therapists and improve inter-professional collaboration with dietitians to assist the occupational therapist in achieving better health and reducing the burden of chronic disease for people experiencing severe mental illness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-449
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


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