Safe Harbor was founded in 1998 in the wake of growing public dissatisfaction with the unwanted effects of orthodox psychiatric treatments such as medication and shock therapy. Seeking to satisfy the desire for safer, more effective treatments, the Project is dedicated to educating the public, the medical profession, and government officials on research and treatments that, minimally, do no harm and, optimally, cure the causes of severe mental symptoms. Our primary thrust is education on the medical causes of severe mental symptoms.
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This month’s lead story tells the remarkable saga of the Stephan family and the work of the father, Anthony Stephan, to put together an effective nutritional supplement that is highly effective in the treatment of bipolar disorder.
We spoke with Anthony Stephan and his research assistant Michele Ball to find out more about this new product they are so excited about. We found them to be quite sincere in their work.
The supplement’s ingredients are readily available on the group’s web site (given in the article below) and Stephan claims, “I don’t care if a hundred companies use our formula. I just want it to be used. We are routinely helping people off of psychiatric drugs and, in fact, find they don’t really get better until they are off the drugs. We can commonly have them off in 60 to 90 days.”
The number of nutritional treatments for mental disorders has grown rapidly in the past five years as well as interest in this approach from universities and medical journals. No wonder. They treat the cause and have no side effects. We wish Stephan’s organization well in their efforts. They are helping to bring mainstream medicine’s attention to the fact that nutritional supplements can and should be standard treatments in the mental health field.
MINERAL-VITAMIN BLEND 90% EFFECTIVE AGAINST “BIPOLAR DISORDER”
“The woman I loved had killed herself [in 1994] and my children were disintegrating before my eyes,” recalls Anthony Stephan, a power engineer. Specialists had told him that “bipolar affective disorder” ran in the family, with three of his ten children afflicted, and that more suicides were likely.
Then Stephan met David Hardy, a biologist who custom-blended nutrients for livestock feed. In animals, Hardy told him, nervous disorders are almost always curable by adding carefully designed nutraceuticals (minerals, vitamins and amino acids) to their feed. For humans, the usual treatment is psychotropic medicines that suppress symptoms, leaving the root causes unhandled and the patients debilitated — often unemployable.
“A deep peace settled over me,” Stephan reports. “I knew we were onto an answer, that there would be work to do and it would succeed.” On January 18, 1996, his third son Joseph began consuming a nutraceutical [nutritional treatment] supplement concocted by Hardy. “Joseph calls himself Patient Zero. The goal was to keep him from being forced into the hospital,” Stephan explains.
Four days after the treatment began, Joseph’s lithium prescription ran out. Within 30 days, Joseph was entirely free of manic depressive symptoms. Today, almost five years later, he works and lives normally.
On February 17, 1996, his sister Autumn Stringam began the same treatment. Since a psychotic episode during a pregnancy four years earlier, she had been frequently suicidal and had been hospitalized several times. “When we drove somewhere and I got thirsty, I’d shriek at my husband until he stopped the car and ran for a drink,” Ms. Stringam says. In ways that no normal person can understand, I lived in darkness, year after year.”
Within a week of taking the nutritional supplement, Autumn dropped four of her five medications. By March 29 she was drug-free. “My thoughts slowed down,” she recalls, “and all the noisy garbage disappeared from my mind. The illness has never returned. I can’t describe my gratitude.”
Against her doctor’s advice, she decided to have another baby. Samantha was born last Christmas Eve. “Researchers suspect that pregnancy often triggers bipolar psychosis due to hormonal changes,” she says. “During my pregnancy with Samantha, I would sometimes feel the symptoms starting to return just like they did with James. But when I increased my supplement intake, the symptoms disappeared. I think pregnancy draws minerals and other nutrients out of the mother’s body as the baby forms, greatly increasing the risk of a psychotic episode. That would explain why my problem was entirely solved by loading up with more nutraceutical.”
Other “bipolar” sufferers showed up, drawn by word of mouth. More successes ensued. The supplement, named EM Power, contains 36 ordinary minerals, vitamins and amino acids, the key being the balance among them. Hardy realized that only scientific validation would allow the discovery to reach the many sufferers who were seeking answers. So he and Anthony Stephan trekked to Calgary and Edmonton in search of help.
Brian Kolb, a University of Lethbridge neurologist who studies brain cell regeneration, showed Hardy and Stephan how to collect patient data.
Research psychologist Bonnie Kaplan and Steve Simpson, a psychiatrist at Foothills Hospital in Calgary, decided to test EM Power on “the first 10 male bipolar patients who came through the door.” At a meeting of the Canadian Psychiatric Association in Victoria, B.C., on October 4, 2000, the researchers announced findings that people taking the supplements find their symptoms are reduced by more than 50% compared with the symptoms they experienced while taking their usual medications.
Meanwhile, Alberta Innovation and Science Minister Lorne Taylor had been favorably moved by Autumn Stringam’s case history when she and her father visited him. In due course a Kaplan-Simpson application to fund a definitive, double-blind testing of the effectiveness of EM Power came across his desk. In October, Alberta Innovation announced a $554,000 grant to the University of Calgary which will be used to assess 100 patients over two years.
Hardy and Stephan have incorporated the Synergy Group of Canada Inc., but they have made no plans for patents. “We hope many companies research and make nutraceuticals along the lines of EM Power,” Tony Stephan comments.
Synergy has about 50 active “Truehope Assistants,” most of them former patients who work for expenses. To date, they have helped more than 1,000 fellow sufferers. The Lethbridge-based firm can be reached at 1-888-TRUEHOP or via the Internet at www.truehope.com .
“We have had about a 90% recovery rate among those with bipolar disorder,” Stephan told the Safe Harbor Project. “We’ve had similar success with schizophrenia, ADD, and other mental disorders – even fibromyalgia.”
The Synergy Group has contacted the Safe Harbor Project, seeking their assistance in setting up university studies in the United States.
MIND-BODY-SPIRIT CONNECTION RECOGNIZED BY MAINSTREAM MEDICINE
More than half of all medical schools in the United States now provide coursework or lectures on the topic of spirituality. There has been a dramatic increase from four in 1992 to 79 in 2000.
In 1998, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the body charged with evaluating and accrediting nearly 19,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States, established Spiritual Assessment Standards as a response to the growing need for a greater understanding of how spirituality impacts patient care and service.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) stated in a 1999 Medical School Objectives Project report that before graduation, students will have demonstrated to the satisfaction of the faculty, “the ability to elicit a spiritual history as well as an understanding that the spiritual dimension of people’s lives is an avenue for compassionate care giving.”
Dr. Herbert Benson, chief of the division of behavioral medicine and the Mind/Body Medical Institute Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, applauded these achievements last month at a Harvard Continuing Education course in Boston.
Since 1990, almost 1,500 research studies, research reviews, articles and clinical trials have been published on the connection of spirituality or religion to medicine and health — a figure equal to the total of all such pieces published prior to 1990. Based on this output, the relationship between spirituality and healing and medicine is rapidly becoming a major area for clinical research.
“The number of research studies documenting the healing effects of spirituality and religion is significant,” said Harold G. Koenig, M.D., associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center. “We are astounded and thrilled with the explosion of research in the past ten years.”
The desire to include spirituality and healing in medicine has also reached consumers. According to a USA Today Weekend poll, 63 percent of Americans would like their physician to discuss spirituality with them.
David Larson, M.D., NIHR president, believes that there has been an amazing paradigm shift in the movement of physicians towards spirituality in medicine. “What I’ve found in my research is that when patients are seriously or chronically ill they frequently use their spiritual or religious beliefs to cope,” explained Dr. Larson. “It gives them a sense of hope, a sense of control and a sense of purpose through the stress of their illness. If their physician can be attentive and responsive to this need, it might mean a great deal to their patient in the midst of their suffering.”
SAFE HARBOR RECEIVES AWARD, BANK OF AMERICA FDN. GRANT
Two welcome surprises greeted Safe Harbor at the turn of the new year.
The Bank of America Foundation awarded the organization a grant “representing our operational support of your programs.” The gift was a quick response to our first official requests for support from charitable foundations which began in October 2000.
Additionally, we received an Award of Excellence for our popular web site AlternativeMentalHealth.com. The award, presented by Awebpage.com, states, “The Awebpage.com Award of Excellence has been awarded to your site for excellent content layout, ease of navigation, and eye-pleasing color balance. Your choice of beautifully done graphics compliments the site extremely well and conveys the message of what your site is about.”
JAMA CONCERNED ABOUT PSYCHOTROPIC DRUGGING OF TOTS
The February 23, 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) featured two important articles about the alarming increase in psychotropic drug prescriptions for two- to four-year-old children. The first was a statistical survey by Zito and colleagues, and the second was an editorial by Joseph T. Coyle, MD, sharply questioning the validity of such prescriptions.
“Is there a reason to be concerned about this new prescribing pattern?” Coyle asks in the opening paragraphs, and proceeds to answer the question as follows:
“… [the] efficacy of psychotropic drugs has not been demonstrated in very young children. As noted by Greenhill, methylphenidate, the most commonly prescribed drug in these studies, carries a warning against its use in children younger than 6 years. Furthermore, the validity and reliability of the diagnoses of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, mood disorders, and schizophrenia in very young children have not been demonstrated.
“To ascertain whether the prescribing practices documented by these recent reports represent informed practice, I surveyed the editorial board (48 physicians) of the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology by facsimile about their prescribing of stimulants, clonidine, antidepressants, and antipsychotics for 2- to 4-year-old children (unpublished data, November 24, 1999). The board consists of expert clinicians and clinical researchers who are likely to treat the most difficult cases.
“Seventy-two percent of the physician board members responded. Most (28 of 35) reported either no use or very rare prescribing of these medications in this age group, and only 3 reported prescribing clonidine on rare occasions. The few positive responses generally were associated with the description of use of these drugs for severe, intractable cases such as the management of children with severe self-injurious behavior. The rarity of the use of psychotropic medications in very young children reported by experts in pediatric psychopharmacology suggests that they are much more reticent than the physicians treating the children in these studies.
“Since there is virtually no clinical research on the consequences of pharmacologic treatment of behavioral disturbances of very young children, is there a basis for concern about these prescribing practices? Early childhood is a time of tremendous change for the human brain. Visual processing, language, and motor skills are acquired during this sensitive period. The cortical synaptic density reaches its maximum at the age of 3 years and is substantially modified by pruning during the next 7 years. At the same time, the cerebral metabolic rate peaks between 3 and 4 years of age. …
“[It] appears that behaviorally disturbed children are now increasingly subjected to quick and inexpensive pharmacologic fixes as opposed to informed, multimodal therapy associated with optimal outcomes. These disturbing prescription practices suggest a growing crisis in mental health services to children and demand more thorough investigation.”
ST. JOHN’S WORT EFFECTIVE AGAINST MODERATE DEPRESSION
A review of clinical studies has shown hypericum extract (St. John’s wort) to be more effective than placebo in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate depression. But how does it stack up against the commonly prescribed antidepressants?
To find out, M. Philipp and colleagues conducted a multicenter, double-blind trial comparing the safety and efficacy of hypericum extract with imipramine (an antidepressant sold under the brand name “Tofranil”) and placebo. The study was reported in the British Medical Journal in December 1999.
Recruited for the study were 263 patients selected by 18 general practitioners from patients diagnosed with moderate depression of at least four weeks’ duration. Exclusion criteria included bipolar disorder, suicidal risk, recent use of psychotropic medication and contraindications to imipramine therapy.
The three patient groups were comparable in age, sex and diagnosis of depression. Compliance was satisfactory in all treatment groups. After six and eight weeks of treatment, hypericum extract was more effective than placebo and comparable to imipramine in improvement of depressive symptoms in patients with moderate depression. Both drugs were more effective than placebo in improving quality of life in the mental component scale, but only hypericum extract was more effective in the physical component scale.
Adverse effects were reported by 46 percent of patients taking imipramine, as compared to 22 percent of the hypericum group. One patient in the placebo group attempted suicide, but it was later discovered that she had been treated with imipramine before the study started.
The authors conclude that an average dosage of hypericum extract, 350 mg three times daily, appears to be as efficacious as imipramine in relieving moderate depressive symptoms. Although they found this regimen and formulation of hypericum to be effective, they caution that hypericum products are commercially available in a variety of dosages and compositions.
FISH OIL MAY RELIEVE SCHIZOPHRENIA SYMPTOMS
After a 1997 pilot study of fish oil supplements, researchers reported that less than a half ounce a day of a commonly available type relieves symptoms in a statistically and clinically significant manner.
Malcolm Peet, MD, of the University Department of Psychiatry in Sheffield, England, says that fish oils, specifically those containing eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), help the body overcome problems caused by overproduction of neurotransmitters linked to schizophrenia and other mental disorders.
Work with fish oil is being performed in countries such as India and Malaysia, where the current customary treatment of schizophrenia usually does not include the use of antipsychotic drugs. Peet suggests that doctors in these countries suspect problems with the medications. He also says cost factors may have to do with failure to use the drugs.
Peet says his results in the preliminary trial tend to confirm an anecdotal case report in Britain, in which a patient with schizophrenia refused standard medications in favor of EPA and his condition improved.
Marc Hillbrand, Ph.D., of Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown and Yale University, says there is growing evidence that disorders in blood fats, including higher or lower levels of fatty acids such as EPA, are linked to personality disorders, and could explain why antipsychotic drugs fail to defeat all aspects of schizophrenia and other mental disorders.
SELENIUM SUPPLEMENTATION LIFTS MOOD
Selenium is an essential dietary mineral and antioxidant (an agent that helps quench or neutralize free-radical chemicals that cause cell damage and can lead to chronic diseases, such as cancer). A selenium deficiency can make you more vulnerable to viruses, cancer, even “down” moods and low energy.
A lack of selenium can sap your energy, feed your anxiety and put you in the doldrums, says USDA psychologist James G. Penland.
Penland found that men who boosted their intake of dietary selenium to 220mcg daily felt less anxious and more energetic, confident and agreeable. Those with the most selenium in their red blood cells felt the best. Men who initially felt the worst improved the most.
Welsh researchers documented the same mood lift in a double-blind study of men and women after taking 100mcg of a selenium supplement daily.
Interestingly, Penland found selenium triggered dramatic improvement in men who showed no signs of selenium deficiency. His conclusion: many Americans are not getting enough selenium for peak well-being, but don’t know it.
As insurance against deficiency, some experts, such as Donald J. Lisk of Cornell University, have long taken 100-200 micrograms of selenium daily – the quantity found in one or two unshelled Brazil nuts.
GIFTED CHILDREN OFTEN MISDIAGNOSED WITH “ADHD”
Michael Kearney, the youngest college graduate in the world, was diagnosed as a toddler with ADHD and prescribed Ritalin. However, his parents declined drug treatment and decided to nurture Michael’s genius with education instead. His father, Kevin Kearney, refused the notion that Michael’s inattention is due to a lack of attention: “In fact, children like Michael have an attention surplus. He’s so much faster than we are. In two seconds he’s figured out what you’re going to say. He’s toyed with a few answers and now he’s looking around waiting for you to finish. It looks like he’s not paying attention and it drives teachers crazy.” (Kearney quoted in Patureau, 1994, p.M4).
Michael Kearney said his first words at four months, told his pediatrician, “I have a left ear infection” at six months, and began to read at ten months.
Michael started high school when he was five and graduated at age six. At the age of eight, he graduated from San Joaquin Junior College and transferred to the University of South Alabama, where he completed his last two years of course work in fourteen months, graduating in anthropology at the age of ten with a 3.6 average. After spending eighteen months on the talk show circuit, he entered graduate school at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) at eleven+, graduating in August, 1998, with an M.S. in chemistry at fourteen.
Far from growing up in an ivory tower, Michael was encouraged to play with kids his own age, and even kicked the winning field goal in a soccer tournament.
The Kearneys say they have evidence that thousands of children around the country have the kind of energy and “rage to learn” that has characterized Michael and their comparably gifted daughter, Maeghan. The Kearneys think that their dedication to keeping their children supplied with fresh knowledge allowed a flowering of their children’s minds that made possible their full mental development. They are very concerned that other children are, perhaps, being misdiagnosed, just as were Michael and Maeghan.
AlternativeMentalHealth.com is the world’s largest web site devoted exclusively to alternative mental health treatments. It includes a directory of over 160 physicians, nutritionists, experts, organizations, and facilities around the U.S. that offer or promote safe, alternative treatments for severe mental symptoms.
Many of the physicians listed do in-depth examinations to find the physical causes behind mental problems. Also included are an array of articles on topics ranging from the medical causes of schizophrenia to the effects of toxic metals on mental health.
A bookstore page lists top books that cover many areas of alternative treatments with titles like Natural Healing for Schizophrenia and Other Common Mental Disorders and No More Ritalin.
AlternativeMentalHealth.com has been created to educate the public, practitioners, and government officials on the medical conditions that create “mental illness” and the many safe resources available for addressing and often curing severe mental symptoms.