Something wonderful has happened within the past decade, due in part to the rapidfire connectivity of social media.
Initially it may seem like mental illness is on the rise, affecting as many as one in four people in the UK each year, according to Mind.org. Women are more likely than men to struggle with mental health issues, with up to 10 percent of mothers and 6 percent of fathers in the UK having a mental health issue at any given time.
However, while these numbers may seem high, the outlook is anything but bleak. Mental health awareness has soared in the new millennium, spurred on by Facebook campaigns that raise awareness of disorders like anxiety and depression. Many mental health experts believe that the high numbers we are seeing are due to the fact that more people are being diagnosed than they were 30 or 40 years ago — which means that more people are getting help.
MEDICATIONS FOR MENTAL ILLNESS FALL SHORT
We are talking more about mental illness than ever before, and that is a great thing. But is the information being spread about common mental health issues like depression and anxiety actually working? That is the question we must ask before we pat ourselves on the back for a “job well done” in raising awareness. Sadly, many of the most frequently prescribed medications for depression and anxiety are not just ineffective, they may cause a whole new set of health problems.
Some of the most popular medications for depression are intended to increase levels of serotonin, a neurochemical, in the brain. These are well-known drugs like Prozac and Lexapro. Both of these drugs are SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, found only to be effective in a third of patients who have depression. Even when these drugs do get the job done, it can take almost two months to see relief from symptoms. This time lapse can be dangerous, or even fatal, for a patient struggling with severe depression.
Even more unsettling were the findings of a 2014 study published in the journal Zeitschrift Fur Psychologie. Researchers compared placebos to antidepressants intended to fix a chemical imbalance or lack of serotonin in the brain. Linking most of the antidepressants’ purported benefits to the placebo effect pushed by drug companies, researchers concluded that there was a small statistical difference between the effects of antidepressants and placebos. Ultimately, the “serotonin theory” in this study was thought to be false: popular antidepressants may make people more biologically vulnerable to depression instead of providing a cure.
To call this research controversial would be an understatement, but it isn’t the only study to make such a claim. In 2009, a study coming out of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine suggested that the cause of depression has been oversimplified, and SSRIs are aiming at the wrong target. Eva Redei, seasoned depression researcher and David Lawrence Stein Professor of Psychiatry at Northwestern’s Feinberg School, said that the typical antidepressant model that focused on decreased serotonin and neurotransmitter levels was “wrong.” According to Redei. the true cause of depression actually begins in an earlier chain of events in the brain, where neurons begin to develop and function. 2
Making matters worse, a 2010 Rhode Island Hospital study suggested that patients’ side effects from taking depression medication may be 20 times higher than what psychiatrists record in their charts.3 In 2011, a study published in Molecular Brain revealed that taking an SSRI like Prozac to treat anxiety or depression may actually change the plasticity of the brain, with the potential to increase anxiety and influence behaviour as side effects.’ When taken during pregnancy. these same brain-altering drugs have been linked to developmental delays and autism in boys. SSRIs may also have a “modest” association with violent crime.
RE-THINKING OUR APPROACH TO MENTAL ILLNESS
We’ve made great strides in raising awareness and opening the door to millions seeking treatment, but now it’s time to change the direction of the conversation. It’s clear that popular drugs for depression and anxiety, for the most part, aren’t doing what they’ve been advertised to do for decades. Compared to this nutritional therapy is valid, safe, and effective form of therapy for mental illness that also happens to be side effect-free. just like any other organ in the body, the brain responds to what you feed it. While a chemical drug like an SSRI can change the plasticity of the brain, specific nutrients may be able to nourish and heal. For many people, this manifests as mental illness that can be managed, balanced, and even reversed, in some cases.
Produced naturally by the body, Sam-e (S-adenosyl-l-methionine) is one such mood-balancing nutrient that can benefit the health of the brain. With each passing year, levels of Sam-e in the body drastically drop. But when taken as a supplement, Sam-e can help to reduce the progress of Alzheimer’s-like characteristics, with the potential to treat major depressive disorders. Amazingly, Sam-e can also boost the effectiveness of antidepressants for those who continue to take them.
Alongside Sam-e, KSM-66 ashwagandha extract is another brain-protective supplement, with more than 14 years of research and development to back it. KSM66 is the highest concentration extract of ashwagandha available, considered the flagship herb of Ayurvedic medicine used to combat stress and fatigue, support concentration and mental clarity, and improve performance. With 11 “Gold Standard” human clinical trials to prove its use, KSM-66 ashwagandha has been shown to safely and effectively improve stress tolerance and quality of life. 5. Both Sam-e and KSM-66 ashwagandha can be taken with L-Tryptophan, L-Theanine, vitamin B6 and vitamin B3 to promote healthy sleep patterns and daytime relaxation.
With more research available on the brain than ever before, there’s great hope for mental health treatment. We know that placebos don’t work, and we also know that antidepressants don’t fare much better. SSRIs are so ineffective, researchers say, because we’ve got the cause of depression all wrong. Supporting the brain with the nutrients it is missing may be the first step to restoring balance and managing disease.
1. 4. Kirsch l. 2014. Antidepressants and the placebo effect Z Psychol 222 (3) pp. 128-134,
2. Jeannotte, A McCarthy, J. G, Redei, E. E. and Sidhu, A 2009. Mar. Desipramine modulation of alpha-. gamma-synuclein, and the norepinephrine transporter in an animal model of depression Neuropsychopharmacology. 34(4) pp. 987-98. doi: 10.1038/npp.2008.146. Epub 2008 Sep 17.
3. Zimmerman, et al. 2010. Underrecognition of clinically significant side effects in depressed outpatients Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 71(4) pp. 484-90 DOI: 10.4088/JCP.08m04978blu
4. Kobayashi, Ku Ikeda Y and Suzuki, H. 2011. Behavioral destabilization induced by the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitorfluoxetine. Molecular Brain, 4:12, DOI: 10.1186/1756-6606-4-12.
5 Chandrasekhar, K, Kopoor, J. and Anishetty, S. 2012. Jul A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentrationfull-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med 34(3) pp. 255-62. doi: 10.4103/0253-7176.106022.