On Wednesday, November 10th 2021, The SME Connect Initiative Healthy Lifestyle at Work & Home organised a webinar titled “Nutritional Psychiatry: The Importance of a Well-Balanced Diet for Mental Health” to discuss the connection between nutrition and depression as well as how nutrition can be effectively integrated into  public health as well as corporate health management strategies for SMEs to protect and improve mental health and emotional wellbeing.

The webinar was hosted by JOSIANNE CUTAJAR MEP, ITRE Committee; Member of MEP Alliance for Mental Health; Supporter of SME Connect Initiative Healthy Lifestyle at Work &Home. Among the speaker were TOMISLAV SOKOL MEP, IMCO, REGI & BECA Committee; Member of MEP Alliance for Metal Health; Member of European Food Forum; PHILIPPE GONIGAM, President of the Union des Sportifs Professionnels et de Haut Niveau; PROF. MARJOLEIN VISSER, Coordinator of MoodFood at Vrije University; PROF. DR. MARION FLECHTNER-MORS, Nutritionist at the Ulm University Hospital; and STEFANIE OFFE, Health & Nutrition Policy Officer at SME Connect. 

JOSIANNE CUTAJAR MEP opened the webinar with the importance of increasing the awareness of mental health in the working places. “The work environment needs to tackle mental health challenges that have been increased during the pandemic”, she stated. She stressed further, that mental health affects productivity at work, hence SMEs alike and that everyone should develop the same awareness for mental health as for physical health.

TOMISLAV SOKOL MEP in his video statement highlighted the connection between food and mood and the effects of different types of diets. He further raised the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health. “ We should more often talk about nutritional psychiatry” because raising awareness supports many people to achieve or maintain positive mental health in the phase of extraordinary challenges.

PHILIPPE GONIGAM,, presented the trade union of the national union of high-level sportsperson in France that provide services to protect and prevent sports professionals. He determined that the uncertainty of the sports career and the pressure might lead to depression and highlighted the linkage between nutrition sport and mental health issues in all its forms. He also pointed out the importance of complying with labour law, which all employers who put their workers at risk must follow.

The final results of the Mood Food Project founded by the EU were pictured by PROF. MARJOLEIN VISSER. A healthy diet leads to fewer depressive symptoms and lower risks to develop symptoms over time. In the Mood Food Project, it was determined that food supplements in combination with therapy might not affect the symptoms of depression once developed, however, more research is needed to ensure significant results in regards to the prevention.

PROF. DR. MARION FLECHTNER-MORS gave an overall picture of the influences on body composition and functions in modern times. The shift in the western diet leads to changes in body composition such as obesity that infects mental health. She highlighted the maintenance of the normal body weight to lower the risk of developing depression.

A slightly different perspective was given by STEFANIE OFFE. She discussed the importance of a healthy diet and a healthy mindset at work and at home and the impacts of these on SMEs and their employers. Companies must make physical and mental health services more accessible and that intervene in the workplace in ways that improve physical and mental health and well-being. Thus, will lead to real improvements in employee outcomes and company performances. Furthermore, she stressed the fact that it is important to support policy-makers in setting up strategies to better support SMEs in this endeavour, as the prevention of diseases is pivotal.