Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys launch research into people with mental illness experiencing food insecurity

Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV) has launched new research into adults with serve mental illness (SMI) experiencing food insecurity.

The research – hosted by the trust in collaboration with the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, Fuse and Equally Well UK – will focus on people living with SMI, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, to learn more about their experiences of food insecurity and how services can support them to improve access to healthy, affordable food.  

Funded by the National Institute for Health and Research (NIHR), the study will last 18 months and recruit 374 participants across the North West, North East, North Cumbria and Yorkshire and Humber areas, where participants will be interviewed on the impact of food security on their weight management.  

Dr Grant McGeechan, Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology, Teesside University, said: “This is a really important project as we know that food insecurity has increased during the pandemic, and people with SMI are disproportionately affected. This research project is an important first step in identifying the impact that food insecurity can have on this population. By working co-productively with people with SMI we can also look at how we can reduce food insecurity in this population in the future.” 

Jo Smith, Consultant Dietitian, TEWV, said: “I first became aware of the issue of food insecurity for people living with SMI at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“People with SMI told us they were struggling to access enough food, an issue that had become worse during the pandemic. We heard stories of people wanting to stay in hospital for longer because they would not be able to eat on returning home. At that point, I knew that we needed to do something to help.”