An alternative option

Alumni discuss alternative methods to treat mental health issues

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From our experiences at Queen’s more than 50 years ago to what we’ve experienced in recent years, we believe that addressing mental health issues should be a priority for students and the Queen’s administration.

A reliance on prescription medication to alleviate the symptoms of mental illness while at school isn’t the best option, in our view.

This is due to side effects of medication that can be incredibly harsh on the body and mind. We’ve experienced these effects first-hand and now know there are other solutions available.

Mental health illnesses affect much of the Queen’s student body. A 2012 study conducted by the university showed that 30 per cent of students said they had average stress levels, while 40 per cent of students reported above average stress levels. A further 20 per cent characterized their stress as “tremendous.”

62 per cent of students surveyed reported that these stresses were resulting in mental health issues.

In recognition of these stresses that current students have to deal with, we’re offering our support of Principal Woolf’s current initiative to improve student wellness. We’ve met with him and believe him to be committed to student wellbeing through his Principal’s Commission on Mental Health, which was created in Sept. 2011.

Coping with anxiety and depression along with the demands of academic life must be discussed with students as they complete their years of study at Queen’s.

Later-life reminiscing should fall heavily on the side of happiness and satisfaction, not anger

and frustration.

We recommend non-drug approaches, due to personal experiences of life-altering side effects — such as cancer, arrhythmia, tinnitus and hearing loss — and the current success we’re experiencing with non-drug approaches, which we’ve spent thousands of hours researching.

We’ve found four approaches to be particularly helpful: neurofeedback, transcendental meditation, orthomolecular medicine and aerobic exercise.

Neurofeedback helps lower stress, anxiety and depression by receiving and analyzing electrical activity in the brain, through the application of electrodes on the skull and on the earlobe. It’s practiced by some local psychiatrists and naturopaths, including the Kingston Institute of Psychotherapy and Neurofeedback.

Other opportunities for this treatment may be found at Kingston Integrative Health Centre and Kingston Neurofeedback Associates.

Transcendental meditation involves shutting your eyes, sitting quietly with soft music playing in the background and repeating a sound like “zoom” to yourself. It’s a form of thought blocking, taking over your focus and attention and preventing the brain from thinking negative thoughts. This should be practiced at least twice per day for 20 minutes.

Orthomolecular medicine can deal with stress, anxiety, depression and a lack of energy. ‘Ortho’ conveys a status of normality in the body, while 'molecular’ refers to a proper balance of nutrients.

This means the treatment aims to restore deficiencies in the body based on biochemistry. If a person lacks certain nutrients they’ll be prescribed these to bring balance to the body. Generally speaking, Naturopathic doctors, as a professional group, are trained in this approach.

Recognition of the benefits of this approach to wellness is being acknowledged by other professionals.

After Jan was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, she decided not to follow the route of radiation, and instead followed the orthomolecular route of nutrients and nutrition. The anxiety and depression that arose was also helped by this route.

Due to differences among individuals, we recommend that students seek the advice of experts in nutrition and nutritional therapy. However, if you’re now on drugs for anxiety and/or depression, please consult a qualified practitioner if you wish to go off of them. Finally, there’s no substitute for exercise and physical activity, particularly at the intensive aerobic level. Exercise increases circulation in the whole body by feeding proteins and essential nutrients to the brain. This helps the brain grow physically and function at its best level.

Even if you can't make a university team, you can still go out for intramurals, join a fitness class or run with a friend.

It’s clear that Queen’s in recent years has made a larger commitment to helping students with mental health concerns they may develop while attending school. We’re very happy to know about this commitment, provided that the above four approaches are included and emphasized.

We highly advocate that students give consideration to these approaches for their wellbeing. We know they’ve worked for us. Even one can be beneficial.

Pat and Jan Galasso are Queen’s alumni. Pat is a former Athletics Director at Queen’s.

Further Resources

Pat and Jan recommend the following books to consult about alternative treatments for mental health conditions and general well-being:

•“Beyond the Relaxation Response” by Herbert
Benson, M.D.

•“Spark” by Dr. John J.
Ratey, M.D.

•“Healing Schizophrenia” by Dr. Abram Hoffer,
MD, Ph.D.

•“Eat Well, Age Better” by
Dr. Aileen
Burford-Mason, Ph.D.

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