Community adult education initiative is exploring the relationship between food and mental health among Galwegians

By Qin Ding

Community adult education initiative, Galway Recovery College hosted a session to explore the relationship between nutrition and mental health on Monday.

As Donal Hoban, Recovery College Co-ordinator, said: “We do focus group and consultation with the service users and ask them what are they concerned about.”

“Obviously, nutrition came up in Galway as an issue. And then our peer educator would have decided to co-produce a class and put something around food and mood. So there are a couple of things happening within that class. They’re looking at the relationship between and nutrition and mental health.”

But he also admitted that they might turn to other topics.

“They’re probably going to start exploring how people can develop poor dietary habits as a consequence of having a mental health challenge. And maybe they might even explore social and material issues, such as reduced income, less employment and so on. There are less good choices around high-quality food, and they might start looking at some of the relationships between medication. This is well documented.”

Mr Hoban said the class could go in many directions depending on the kind of the dialogue.

“It’s an overarching theme. They would have devised a class like a roadmap. It’s a guideline of the general direction or line of advance they want to take. But it could also call many directions.”

Galway Recovery College, opened in 2013, and it is based at the Institute for Lifecourse and Society Building on NUI Galway’s North Campus.

The service aims to support, maintain and promote positive mental health in the community and to foster hopeful positive conversations about human distress and the challenges associated with poor mental health.

According to Mr Hoban, Recovery College is not therapeutic and lays no claim to offer therapy.

“They are about learning. They are about understanding. It just happens that many of the topics are related to mental health, distress, mental illness, mental challenge, mental health protection, mental health maintenance and so on.”

When it comes to the number of students in the college, he said that a couple of thousand students had joined them since they started the service.

“But here’s the interesting thing. It’s adult education. It’s not like college where there’s admission, you must have particular credentials. And we try to make the experience as accessible as possible.”

“So some individuals will come once or twice, because that’s what they want. Some individuals come to all the classes. Some individuals will come intensively for a year and then not come back. Other people will come on a very routine basis over several years based on their needs.”

Mr Hoban also said that in general, it’s marginally more women than men.

“But that can fluctuate. There are lots of variations. Some subjects and topics might attract more women than men.”

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