Welcome to the inaugural Western Region Mental Health and Nutrition Network (WRMHNN) meeting.

In 2019, the Western Extension Directors Association (WEDA) identified Health and Nutrition as a regional priority. Their preliminary work highlighted the need for mental health programming in conjunction with nutrition programming. WEDA initiated the WRMHNN planning team, research and extension professionals from California, Montana, Nevada, Washington, and Wyoming, to develop this USDA funded meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to bring together individuals across the western region (WR) working in either mental health and/or nutrition. You are invited to join the WRMHNN, and we transition from a small planning team to regional network of mental health and nutrition stakeholders.


The WR, including the 13 US states, 4 Pacific territories, and US protectorates, tends to have poorer mental health compared to other regions. Box 1 highlights the nuances of mental health compared to mental illness (1). In 2022, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Alaska, and Oregon were ranked as having the poorest overall rating for mental health (2). In 2020, seven of the ten states with the highest rates of suicide mortality were Western states (3). Diet and nutrition are recognized as causes,

modifiers, and mediators of mental health and illness.

Low availability of food is both a major factor contributing to mental illness and a potential consequence of mental illness. Food insecurity and high intake of ultra-processed foods are associated with mental illness (4–7). On the other hand, high intake of fruits and vegetables in women is related to reduced risk of anxiety, mental disorders, and depressive episodes (8). Importantly, the relationship between mental health and illness and diet and nutrition is bidirectional. Dietary interventions have been shown to be an effective component in the treatment of depression and anxiety (9). Information, education, and dietary interventions are recommended as part of integrated mental health treatment (10).

The Network

The WRMHNN aims to connect mental health specialists and nutrition professionals.

Our Mission

Facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration among professionals and communities; to cultivate innovative, practical solutions; to improve food systems; and strengthen mental health and nutrition integration.

Increase collaboration and expertise regionally and enhance fund development efforts; and raise awareness of unique mental health, food system, and nutrition-care related issues in the WR.

Long-term Goals

nutrition and healthy food access.

efforts either as a stand-alone piece or additive to ongoing efforts.

Short-term Goals

partners to advance research and education to address gaps.

To fulfill our mission and meet our goals, we have developed a Mental Health Nutrition Network conceptual model building off a socio-ecological model (Figure 2). To develop practical solutions, we

must consider how nutrition and mental health professionals can use their expertise together to strengthen mental health and nutrition integration.

Additionally, we must account for community level resource availability including: food availability, healthcare access, transportation, childcare, and safety.

Future Directions

As the network develops, we expect to use the “Hub and Spoke” model with the creation of working groups.

Working groups

We have four active working groups focused on a variety of inter-dependent nutrition and metal health intersections. 

Steering committee

We are still working on a steering committee!

The steering committee will act as the hub for the working groups. Made up of three to four people, the steering committee will meet with representatives from each working group to facilitate knowledge transfer. This can be accomplished, for example, through a quarterly newsletter distributed to all WRMHNN members.


Members of the network have access to the directory. Sign up to get access. 


From 2019 to today, WEDA and the planning team have been working to integrate mental health and nutrition programming. We are excited to transition from a small team to member led network composed of a steering committee and working groups. We hope to harness the spirit of western collaboration to improve the health and safety of our region. We look forward to joining you in this effort.

Carrie Ashe, M.Ed, Montana State University

Dr. Alison Brennan, PhD, Montana State University

Dr. Anne Lindsay, PhD, FACSM, University of Nevada Reno

Dr. Amanda Marney, PhD, University of Wyoming

Dr. Cassandra J. Nguyen, PhD, University of California Davis

Dr. Martine Perrigue, PhD, RDN, CD, Washington State University

Dr. Grace Shearrer, PhD, University of Wyoming


1. C. L. M. Keyes, in Bridging Occupational, Organizational and Public Health: A Transdisciplinary Approach, G. F. Bauer, O. Hämmig, Eds. (Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, 2014; https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-5640-3_11), pp. 179–192.

2. Ranking the States. Ment. Health Am., (available at https://www.mhanational.org/issues/ranking-states).

3. Suicide Rates by State | Suicide | CDC (2022), (available at https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/suicide-rates-by-state.html).

4. C. A. Myers, Curr. Nutr. Rep. 9, 107–118 (2020).

5. M. Maynard et al., Int. J. Environ. Res. Public. Health. 15, 1424 (2018).

6. D. J. Arenas, A. Thomas, J. Wang, H. M. DeLisser, J. Gen. Intern. Med. 34, 2874–2882 (2019).

7. M. M. Lane et al., Nutrients. 14, 2568 (2022).

8. D. Guzek, D. Gła¸bska, B. Groele, K. Gutkowska, Nutr. Rev. 80, 1357–1370 (2021).

9. T. Burrows et al., Nutr. Diet. 79, 279–290 (2022).

10. R. S. Opie et al., Nutr. Neurosci. 20, 161–171 (2017).