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  • Writer's pictureZené Jordaan


July marks Mental Illness Awareness Month. To create awareness, we first need to define what mental illness is, the different types, how it affects one and what we can do about it.


According to the American Psychiatric Association:

mannequin with exposed brain
"Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behaviour (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses can be associated with distress and /or problems functioning in social, work or family activities."(1)

Mental health forms the foundation for emotions, thinking, communication, learning, resilience, hope and self-esteem. Mental health is also key to relationships, personal and emotional well-being and contributing to community or society. Your mental health is a component of your overall well-being, it can influence and be influenced by one's physical health.

Mental Illness is relatively common and does not discriminate; it can affect anyone regardless of race, age, gender, geography, income, social status, ethnicity, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation, background, or other aspect of cultural identity.


There are a many types and sub-categories of mental illnesses and the below lists just a few.

  • Panic Disorders

  • Anxiety Disorders

  • Mood Disorders

  • Depression

  • Bi-polar Disorders

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Personality Disorders

  • Schizophrenia

  • Eating Disorders

  • Dissociative Disorders

According to the World Health Organization: In 2019, 1 in every 8 people, or 970 million people around the world were living with a mental disorder, with anxiety and depressive disorders the most common. In 2020, the number of people living with anxiety and depressive disorders rose significantly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initial estimates show a 26% and 28% increase respectively for anxiety and major depressive disorders in just one year. While effective prevention and treatment options exist, most people with mental disorders do not have access to effective care. Many people also experience stigma, discrimination, and violations of their human rights. (2)



Treatment depends on the mental disorder and the severity. Typically, traditional treatment options include some sort of therapy, prescription medication, social support, and education and in severe cases psychiatric hospitalisation. (3)


Various complimentary & alternative treatment options exist, and these practitioners and therapists look at the individual holistically. (4)

  • Acupuncture

  • Aromatherapy

  • Herbal medicine

  • Homeopathy

  • Hypnotherapy

  • Light therapy

  • Massage

  • Meditation

  • Pet therapy

  • Spiritual or energy healing

  • Therapeutic reflexology

  • Yoga

My insights as a complimentary & alternative healthcare provider makes me step back and look at the individual as a whole. As a Therapeutic Reflexologist and former sufferer of Major Depressive Disorder. I firmly believe that trough self-care you can assist your body to recover from and / or prevent the severity of mental health illnesses to some degree by focusing on nutrition including supplementation, mindfulness, lifestyle management strategies and Complimentary & Alternative Treatments to enhance your efforts.



Even though you might be rolling your eyes at this point it is still the best way to improve your health. Really look at what you are fuelling your body with. Is it real wholesome and nutritious food or convenience food or heaven forbid primarily fast foods.

Why do alternative healthcare practitioners always circle back to this point? It is because nutritious food is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to protect your health. It provides your body with the building blocks, vitamins, and minerals to protect and fuel your brain and nervous system which in turns fire signals to various organs to produce the hormones that stabilize and improve your mood even in stressful times.


So, if you are eating nutritious food why do you need supplementation? You simply will not be able to consume enough food to bridge certain nutritional gaps. Unfortunately, because our environmental stressors are so high, we need a higher concentration of certain vitamins and minerals which gets depleted at a higher rate when we become stressed or mentally fatigued.

Supplements which are great to support our mental health (5)

  • B Vitamins Vitamin B deficiency could negatively influence your memory function and cause cognitive impairment and dementia. B vitamins are one of the first vitamins to be depleted in the body when we are under stress regardless of whether our stress is external (work/physical stress) or internal (mental/emotional stress)

    • Vit B9 (Folic Acid) or Folate click here to shop Low levels of folate have been linked to depression. I prefer to supplement with folate rather than with folic acid as folate is better absorb and utilized within the body. Dietary Sources: Green Leafy Vegetables & Citrus Fruit

    • Vit B12 (Cobalamin) or Methylcobalamin Vit B12 deficiency could lead to an oxygen-transport problem in the blood known as pernicious anaemia. This disorder may cause issues like mood swings, paranoia, irritability, confusion, dementia, and mania. Vit B12 combined with Folate enhance the production of dopamine and serotonin (hormones which make us feel happy and motivated) Not all Vit B12 is created equally. Look out for Methylcobalamin as it is the natural and bioavailable form of Vit B12 and as such better absorb by our body. Dietary Sources: Fish, Meat, Poultry, Eggs, Milk

  • Vit D3 (Cholecalciferol) click here to shop Vit D deficiency has been associated with active mood disorder and depression. Did you know individuals of African ancestry living in temperate regions have a poorer vitamin D status than do other ethnicities. Melanin is the pigment that provides skin colour, and individuals with darker skin have more of it than those with lighter skin. Having more melanin reduces your ability to synthesize vitamin D from the sun. Dietary Sources: Fatty Fish, Egg Yolks, Liver, Cheese, Mushrooms Natural Sources: UVB from sunlight.

  • GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) click here to shop A review published in the journal Neuropharmacology concluded that people with anxiety and depression are more likely to have low levels of GABA. Taking GABA as an oral supplement can provide relief from anxiety and chronic stress. Studies have shown that supplementation was effective as a relaxant and anxiety reliever. Other studies have shown that it can helps people to recover quickly from extreme stress incidents. (6) Exercise caution as GABA may interact with Hypertension & Epilepsy Medication

  • Rhodiola Rosea click here to shop Rhodiola is a very promising treatment for stress and mild to moderate depression and as a neuroprotectant and is promising for several other mental health conditions. Consult with your healthcare provider as there are risk of drug interactions and side effects with Rhodiola (7)


Another topic which mainstream media seems to be hyper-focused on and with good reason. Lifestyle Management is unique to the individual; it is finding balance between work, social interactions, exercise, and relaxation. As a starting point I always direct people to look at their Blood Type, this allows you some insight to your genetic make-up and why some people experience amazing stress relieving benefits from strenuous exercise and others from calming practices like yoga. If you are interested in the Blood Type Diet click to purchase the Blood Type Diet e-book for relevant insight to beneficial foods, supplements and exercise for your blood type.


The information within this article is for educational purposes and does not replace the advice of your primary healthcare provider. Should you suspect that you or a loved one may have a Mental Illness please seek professional help. There is no shame in asking for help. This article also contains affiliate links. Please note that if you decide to purchase supplements from these links that I will receive a commission from the company at no additional cost to you.


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