National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Health and Wellness

December 5, 2008

TIME magazine reports that people with severe mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than the general population from cigarette smoking, obesity and diabetes.

One reason that people with serious mental illness are dying younger is that they often cannot access the best available health care due to socioeconomic barriers. In addition, more than 75% of people with severe mental illness are dependent on tobacco. People in this demographic also may be disproportionally affected because psychiatric medications cause significant weight gain. The high incidence of obesity-related illnesses in people living with mental illness, such as diabetes, has been identified as an epidemic within an epidemic.

The good news is that these common risk factors are modifiable. 

NAMI NYC Metro conducted focus groups to review patient concerns in response to a 2006 mortality report. Based on the participant’s feedback, NAMI NYC Metro introduced "Six Weeks to Wellness," a popular weekly class that addresses topics such as nutrition and the benefits of managing anxiety through yoga and meditation.

NAMI National also maintains a "Hearts and Minds" wellness promotion program.