Focus on mental health highlights treatment options

Mental disorders affect one in four people worldwide. They can strike anyone at any time and don’t discriminate by age, income, education, or religion.

Mental Illness Awareness Week is an opportunity for the Canadian Alliance of Mental Illness and Mental Health to promote education around the impact of mental illness on our communities.

In North America, anxiety disorders (including panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder) are most common, affecting 40 million adults in the U.S. alone.

Tragically, only a third of those with symptoms will seek treatment. They may fear discrimination due to misinformation and stigma, and can be doomed to suffer in silence, sometimes under the misguided belief that they are to blame for what’s happening to them. Even when they seek help, shortages of specialized health care practitioners can make it hard to find.

Often communities struggle to attract enough psychiatrists and counsellors to keep up with the demand for services.

Researchers are working hard to better understand mental illness. The medical community is a long way from cures, but there are treatments. Therapy in an individual or group setting can help, as can prescriptions drugs. Medical cannabis is emerging as an exciting alternative to pharmaceuticals in the treatment of depression and various types of anxiety disorders.

Researchers report that cannabis oil – specifically, cannabidiol or CBD – has potential in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Users of medical cannabis—specifically, cannabis low in THC and high in CBD—reported experiencing relief from symptoms of depression and anxiety; the lower ratio of THC to CBD is reportedly more likely to reduce anxiety. Those using cannabis that is high in both THC and CBD reported greater overall reduction in stress.

Patients surveyed report a preference for the use of medical cannabis to treat their symptoms over pharmaceutical antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. And they report a decrease in the use of anti-anxiety, antidepressant, and sleep medications in states where medical cannabis is available.

People experiencing anxiety and depression don’t need to suffer in silence. There are many community organizations like the Canadian Mental Health Association and the National Institute of Mental Health to help.