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Mental health group shares herbal treatment strategies

By Hank Schultz , 10-Oct-2012
Last updated on 10-Oct-2012 at 15:48 GMT

A group of mental health professionals has launched a website to share integrative treatment strategies, which includes advice on the use of herbal products, the group announced Tuesday.

The International Network of Integrative Mental Health (INIMH) counts among its membership medical doctors, psychologists, allied health clinicians, and academics who are interested in incorporating alternative therapies with mainstream medicine.

“Our whole mission is about figuring out the ways to combine the best of Western medicine with alternative and integrative therapies,” Carol Viezer, a founding member of the INIMH, told NutraIngredients-USA.

Key among these strategies is to look at a patient’s nutritional status, an item often given only cursory attention in mainstream psychological workups.  That includes a careful look at what herbal supplements a patient might be taking or might be recommended and how they might interact with or be contraindicated by their prescription medications.

If you believe that herbal products can help patients with mental difficulties as part of an integrated approach, you need to treat them with respect, said Veizer, who is a practicing psychologist.

Herbals are very serious medicine,” she said. “It is important to look a patient from a whole person perspective, and understand everything they put into their bodies.”

Group shares integration strategies

The INIMH was founded in 2010 by 16 mental health practitioners located around the globe.  The group has since expanded to 24 professionals.

According to the group, the practice of "integrative mental healthcare" adopts a model that uses an integrated approach to addressing biological, psychological, and sociological determinants of mental illness.

A combination of mainstream interventions such as pharmacological treatments and psychosocial interventions with evidence-based non-conventional therapeutics (such as nutritional medicine, dietary and exercise modification, acupuncture, select herbal medicines, and mindfulness meditation), are often prescribed.

Public awareness of integrated approaches to mental health care is growing, the INIMH says.  But coordinated information on the subject is lacking.

“There is little agreement on what healthcare providers should recommend — or patients should choose — regarding safe, evidence-based, non-conventional or integrative treatment strategies to address mental health needs. INIMH addresses this deficit," Dr. James Lake, INIMH president, said.

Manufacturers stay at arm's length

A source at a dietary supplement manufacturer active in the practitioner channel told NutraIngredients-USA that while such a company can act as intermediary with practitioners as to how its products are being used among various medical practices, that manufacturer cannot directly recommend the use of any product to treat a disease, such as mental illness.  The choice to use an herbal product in this way would rest solely with the practitioner, the source said.

The INIMH interactive website provides links to resources on integrative mental healthcare; expert-hosted forums; a comprehensive searchable mental healthcare library; and offers networking between clinicians, researchers and the public.

The group also has available white paper that outlines strategic recommendations for advancing integrative mental healthcare, including increasing research in key areas, improving clinician training and education, and promoting a public health agenda.

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