It is hard to escape the depressing picture of the UK economy and the wider global crisis affecting employment, job losses, redundancies, mortgage payments, escalating cost of utility bills, repossessions and the general financial state of the country. One would have to be pretty resilient to withstand these changes, particularly a change in job status, inability to pay the bills and the threat of losing one's home. National debt in the UK has been estimated at £612 billion and is forecast to rise to 44% of the GDP. it is not surprising that many are facing an uncertain future with an inevitable consequence on health, particularly mental health & well-being.
To address these symptoms of the 'credit crunch blues', one must free oneself from the numerous constraints of modern living and a Western decadent lifestyle that has created an unhealthy dependency on material gain and one which has become far too familiar to most. Losing a job, losing one's home and living in a poverty trap is never great but to cope with such life changes, it is imperative to generate a mindset and a fundamental shift in attitude to what is real, what is important, having a healthy perspective and a practical approach to tackling the problems. Granted, this is not easy and this is why so many suffer the ill effects of it which causes a profound and potentially permanent damage to their mental health & well-being.
Mental illness is an extremely complex issue which encompasses a gamut of symtoms and remains a constant challenge to the psychiatrist. Given that so many are affected by mental, neurological and behavioural problems, it is unfortunate that there is still a stigma attached to many of the conditions that fall within the category of mental illness. The most common form of mental illness that many will have heard of is depression - a profoundly debilitating illness that is often a long-standing condition for those affected, accompanied by severe sadness or melancholy and a feeling of hopelessness. Sufferers can experience an overwhelming desire to self-harm and to even commit suicide. Categories include clinical depression and bipolar disorder as well as SAD (seasonal affective disorder) amongst others:
- clinical depression
- bipolar disorder (manic depression)
- seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- personality disorders
- anxiety disorders
- eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia)
- attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)
A proper assessment of psychiatric function and mental acumen is a must as is an accurate diagnosis before any treatment can be considered. The field of mental health has mushroomed in the last few years, partly owing to advancements and developments in the way certain illnesses are viewed but also because of the many benefits seen with alternative, non-invasive and non-prescription drug therapies. There has also been a combined and concerted effort by campaign groups, charities, therapists and patient groups not fogetting high profile celebrity cases to raise awareness and make available the suitable help for mental health disorders and illnesses.
Herbalists have an array of plant remedies to combat the many and varied symptoms of mental illness, particularly mild to moderate depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, irritability, mood swings, tiredness/lethargy and loss of appetite. Much of how it is prescribed and choice of preparation will depend on the patient and the condition being treated. Some conditions require conventional treatments depending on the severity of the symptoms and in order to access the talking therapies which can only be acquired through the GP route. However, the following herbs are just a handful of plant medicines that have proved their worth in mental illness:
St. John's Wort - antidepressant; given for depression (mild to moderate conditions only)
Skullcap - nerve tonic and sedative; given for nervous tension, hysteria & epilepsy
Damiana - nerve tonic, antidepressant & stimulant; given for mild to moderate depression, nervous debility
Wood Betony - sedative & nerve tonic; given for nervous headache, nervous exhaustion, anxiety & mild depression
Oats - nerve tonic & nutrient; given for nervous exhaustion, debility, convalescence, nervous insomnia
Ginsengs - Indian, Siberian & Chinese ginsengs are all nerve tonics, they help cope with stress & exhaustion
Verbena - nerve tonic; given for mild depression, nervous exhaustion, convalescence, hysteria
There are numerous other herbs that are incredibly useful and have been covered in previous posts. These include, chamomile, lavender, rose, valerian, lemon balm and passion flower. Seek advice and help from a qualified and registered practitioner of herbal medicine before self-administering. Diet & nutrition is also vital so seeking the help of a nutritionist may alleviate some of the symptoms. It is also important to recognise key symptoms that are indicative of mental illness and therfore an initial appointment with a GP may be necessary in order to make and confrim a definitive diagnosis. This may require referral to a specialist.
There are many organisations, charities and groups that are dedicated to serving the needs of sufferers of mental health disorders and they provide much-needed clarity, information, support, advice and help. They can also put you in touch with certain professionals and therapists who specialise in certain conditions. Contact the following for specific help and advice on mental health & well-being:
MIND - a mental health charity providing help, support, advice, useful contacts & information: www.mind.org.uk
SANE - a mental health charity providing help, support, advice, information & useful contacts: www.sane.org.uk
CPP - professional body for medical herbalists and holds a comprehensive register of qualified & registered practitioners both nationally and internationally: www.phytotherapists.org
BANT - a professional body for nutritional therapists and holds a register of qualified & registered practitioners: www.bant.org.uk
BJW (The British Journal of Mental Health Nursing) a journal promoting a positive approach to mental and physical health. Aimed at practitioners, therapists and patients who have an interest either personally or professionally in all aspects of mental well-being. http://www.markallengroup.com/ma-healthcare/healthcare-publications/nursing-midwifery-and-healthcare/british-journal-of-mental-health-nursing/