A new intervention to promote health in psychosis

Lead Researcher: Dr Caragh Behan, DETECT-EI

A St John of God study developed by HRB funded scholars led to an intervention that showed sessions on activity and diet helped people with psychosis to control their weight and blood sugars.
In Summary

People who are diagnosed with psychosis, which includes conditions such as schizophrenia and some mood disorders, they are at risk of developing other health issues in the long term, such as obesity, heart disease and blood-sugar abnormalities.
A HRB-funded study evaluating early intervention in psychosis led to a pilot intervention programme to encourage people with psychosis to eat a healthy, balanced diet and to keep physically active. Participants experienced modest weight control and an improvement in blood-sugar profiles. The intervention itself, which was funded by St John of Gods’ Research Foundation, is still well subscribed and in place to help protect the health of people with psychosis. 

The problem

People with psychosis are at high risk of developing obesity, heart disease and blood-sugar irregularities. This is partly lifestyle related, s this group smokes more than the general population and is less physically active, and contributed to by the anti-psychotic medication they need to control symptoms of psychosis.

The Project

Professor Mary Clarke of DETECT and Dr Caragh Behan, a HRB funded scholar, designed a programme to help people with psychosis at the DETECT early intervention service in Dublin to support people with practical steps to keeping healthy while on anti-psychotic medication. Community mental health nurse Aisling McClenaghan worked with patients individually or in small groups to talk about lifestyle, learn practical skills about shopping and cooking for a balanced diet and go for walks to keep active. The pilot was supported by a community partnership.

Those who took part saw results in their weight: those who were a healthy weight did not gain over the course of the year-long study, and those who were overweight lost an average of 2-3 kilos. Participants also had positive changes in their blood sugar profiles.

The Outcomes

We now know that: -

  • A practical intervention can help people with psychosis control their weight and improve blood sugars.

The pilot intervention developed while Dr Behan was funded by the HRB at DETECT continues to run at the early intervention programme.

Dr Caragh Behan, DETECT-EI, says:

'The intervention helped people with psychosis to learn practically about protecting their health, and what made it work especially well was the flexibility and enthusiasm of the nurse who delivered it. We had people on waiting lists who wanted to take part in the programme, so we saw a big demand for it'.