ALEXANDRIA, VA. (September 16, 2013)—Mental Health America today is publishing a new web resource that provides a comparative, research-based approach on complementary and alternative treatments for mental health conditions (http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/mentalhealthandcam).
While some activities, like exercise, are good for everyone who is physically able to do them and have no uncontrollable side effects, most decisions about mental health treatment options, and especially the decisions faced by people coping with serious mental health conditions, involve trade-offs. Nonetheless, 40 percent or more of Americans self-treat themselves without professional supervision, often without disclosing it to their psychiatrist or primary care provider.
In particular, many people who use herbs and food supplements also take prescription antidepressants, risking potentially dangerous adverse herb/drug interactions. While most natural psychotropics are generally considered safe, they are not risk free, and the common public misconception that natural products are inherently safe has been refuted by toxic reactions from these agents, which may be due to intrinsic toxicity, contamination, or interaction with other herbs or drugs.
“People considering using complementary or alternative treatments need to make an informed decision, just as they would with any synthetic medication or other treatment, weighing the evidence about effectiveness, drug interactions, side effects, and less dangerous options, to come up with a risk/benefit assessment,” said Wayne W. Lindstrom, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America.
“These are the issues that any physician must consider, and that anyone considering complementary or alternative treatment should consider. But the blizzard of competing claims poses a real challenge to getting efficient access to reliable evidence about safety and efficacy. We have produced this resource to fill that void.”
Mental Health America enlisted the help of David Mischoulon, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, to review the material. But the information was compiled from many published sources by Mental Health America.
The website is a “meta-review” of the ten most prominent objective sources, including Dr. Mischoulon’s own book, Natural Medications for Psychiatric Disorders: Considering the Alternatives, co-edited with Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, M.D. (also of Harvard Medical School) (2002/2008). By putting all of the recommendations not tied to product advertising in one place, side-by-side, Mental Health America hopes to help consumers, advocates, physicians and other health care practitioners be better informed about the principal non-traditional options available and the evidence that supports them.
Mental Health America and other large mental health advocacy groups have never previously provided systematic information on supplements, which have been used extensively by consumers based on word of mouth recommendations, in the absence of reliable advice about risks or efficacy. With the publication of this web resource, Mental Health America hopes to remedy this oversight.
(Click here to view a dashboard from the web resource of the “List of Conditions and Side Effect Risk Levels” for complementary and alternative treatments.)