One in four people is affected by mental illness at some stage. While minor mental "unwellness" often remains unrecognised and untreated, severe illnesses are often treated inappropriately with powerful drug and/or shock treatment. Yet there are many natural remedies available as a first line of attack.
Regular, moderately intense exercise is a powerful preventative. The satisfaction of achieving something, and seeing an improvement in muscle tone and fitness, increases your sense of self worth (Behavioural Modification, 1994; 18: 171-185), and studies have clearly linked exercise with a positive outlook (J Psychosomatic Res, 1993; 37: 565-574; Psychology and Health, 1993; 8: 89-99).
Dance therapy has a positive effect on the body image and general outlook of Parkinson's patients (Am J Dance Ther, 1989; 11: 27-38), and it is quite likely that other neuropsychiatric disorders may see similar benefits. It has showed a strong positive effect, both physically and mentally, in young children and their mothers, whose troubled background involved abuse (The Arts in Psychotherapy, 1991; 18: 3).
Yoga has been found to help treat epilepsy, as well as to improve the social adjustment, and increase the IQ, of mentally retarded children (J Menta Defic Res, 1989; 33: 415-21). Geriatric patients also found yoga improved their concentration, memory, learning ability and sense of contentment (Activities Adaptation in Ageing, 1987; 9: 61-8).
However, exercise must be carefully introduced into your lifestyle if you are also receiving therapy that affects the body's chemistry such as special diets or drugs that alter the blood sugar level.
Food sensitivities or other environmental elements can be the cause of a person's mental unwellness with symptoms like aggression, depression, withdrawal and hypersensitivity to touch, sound or smell. If you suspect a single type of food, avoid it for 10 days, and then reintroduce it. The answer is self evident if the symptoms abate, but recur upon reintroduction. Professional help will be needed when several foods and/or environmental chemicals, such as garden pesticides, are suspected (W Rea, Chemical Sensitivity, Dallas: Lewis, 1992-1997).
Schizophrenia is thought to be a biomedical disease caused by adrenochrome (produced by the oxidation of adrenaline). Vitamin B3 inhibits the formation of adrenaline and vitamin C tends to block the oxidative process of adrenaline to adrenochrome (A Hoffer, M Walker, Putting It All Together: The New Orthomolecular Nutrition, New Canaan; Keats: 1996). Orthomolecular psychiatrists have prescribed nutrient supplements in doses far above the "recommended daily allowances" for schizophrenics. This approach has seen dramatic results, but should only be undertaken with the guidance of a qualified professional.
One form of self therapy is music. It influences our emotions and triggers responses in various areas of the brain. Respiration, heartbeat, coordination and our basic emotions are measurably affected. One study showed 93 per cent of patients were cured of their depression through auditory stimulation (G Berard, Hearing Equals Behaviour, New Canaan: Keats, 1993).
Ginkgo biloba which has been around for over 200 million years is an obvous first choice in treating the problems of old age. Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) affects the blood system and, above all, improves mental performance, neural transmission and even hearing loss. GBE has been researched extensively; a meta analysis, covering more than 40 clinical studies of GBE in the treatment of cerebral insufficiency, concluded that GBE is clearly effective in reducing all dementia symptoms, including impaired mental function (Br J Clin Pharmacol, 1992; 43: 352-8).
Registered naturopath, homoeopath and osteopath