Alternative Mental Health News, No. 8


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.

Contact info:
Safe Harbor
P.O. Box 37
Sunland, California 91041-0037
(818) 890-1862



In January 2001, the Safe Harbor was asked to assist the Health Research Institute/Pfeiffer Treatment Center with a seminar in Southern California on the nutritional treatment or mental disorders.

The speaker, Dr. William Walsh, was pelted with questions by the audience. The array and intensity of inquiries by the audience was a sobering reminder of the rising public desire for safe, workable alternatives for mental health problems.

Many parents with Ritalin-treated children were clearly unhappy with the drug treatment and looking for a better way for their children. (Walsh reported a very high success rate in treating Attention Deficit Disorder with nutrients.) Others were concerned about their own failed treatments or that of family members.

Walsh was specific about the results he has seen with nutrient therapy, citing the few areas where it has failed and the many where it has succeeded, backing up his claims with his institute’s own studies of the thousands of patients they have treated.

The role of nutrients in metal health is a powerful one that will shape mental treatment in the 21st century. We highly recommend a study of this area for anyone interested in treating mental disorders. More information on this subject is available in the article “The Critical Role of Nutrients in Severe Mental Symptoms” at


William Walsh, Ph.D, chief scientist of the nonprofit Health Research Institute in Naperville, Illinois, reported in Jan. 2001 at a speech in Southern California that his team appears to have found the cause of autism. The discovery has been submitted to Nature magazine, but in the public interest, Walsh has agreed to early release of the information in the Alternative Mental Health News.

In reviewing the blood chemistry of over 600 autistic children, Walsh and his colleagues found that all but four had the same metabolic defect – trouble utilizing metal nutrients. Studies in mammals have demonstrated that copper and zinc balance is regulated to a large degree by proteins of the metallothionein family. Walsh’s team suspects that autistic children have a dysfunctional metallothionein protein.

The results of impaired metallothionein protein functioning in infancy closely resemble typical symptoms of autism. One consequence is abnormal copper and zinc levels in the blood and in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory and behavior control. The hippocampus normally contains the largest concentration of metals in the body. Another consequence is impaired neuronal development, especially in the first 30 months of life, which could result in incomplete maturation of the GI tract and brain.

Speaking with Safe Harbor, Walsh reported that the genes that create metallothionein proteins have been decoded, thus early detection and prevention of autism appears highly possible.

The Pfeiffer Treatment Center, an arm of the Health Research Institute, uses nutrient therapy in these cases aimed at stimulating the dysfunctioning protein. In autistic clients, other testing is often wise as multiple physical abnormalities, such as candida infection and food sensitivities, may be inhibiting function.

Research continues at the Health Research Institute into autism prevention and the development of gene therapy in reversing autism.

For more information, contact the Health Research Institute/Pfeiffer Treatment Center at (630) 505-0300.


A study published in the February 8, 2001, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that heart bypass surgery is often followed by lasting mental decline.

Doctors are familiar with the mental dullness that many heart patients experience after an operation, which is typically followed by a return to clarity – but not always, and it doesn’t always last.

The new study examined 261 bypass surgery patients who were on a heart-lung machine during the procedure. (In the U.S., there are about 400,000 such operations every year.) Five years after the operation, 40 percent of the 261 patients showed a 20 percent drop in mental functioning. The bypass operations took place from 1989 through 1993, and the last five-year tests were administered in 1998.

The loss has not been proven to be a direct result of the surgery. It has been speculated that people whose arteries need to be replaced already have damaged blood vessels in their brains as well. The heart-lung machine, which circulates blood through the patient’s body during surgery, may also play a role. Dr. Mark F. Newman, who led the study, said other research appears to indicate that there are fewer problems with the brain after bypass operations done without the heart-lung machine.

Dr. Irving L. Kron, chief of cardiac and thoracic surgery at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, offered another explanation: “It may be that the stress of the operation brings things out or pushes things along that were there to start with.”

Participants in the latest study took tests in memory, attention, concentration and manual dexterity five times: before the operation, when they left the hospital, and six weeks, six months and five years later.

Fifty-six percent did significantly worse when they were released from the hospital than when they were admitted. People who did not show any losses after the operation were in equally good shape five years later.

Nearly half of those people were back up to preoperation levels when tested six months after the operation. But at the five-year mark, most were back down to the levels measured on leaving the hospital.


Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is essential in the body’s process of extracting useful energy from glucose, amino acids and fats. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of 1.1 to 1.5 mg a day provides enough thiamine to prevent beriberi, a potentially deadly deficiency disease, but is it optimum for our physical and mental well-being?

To find out, researchers from the University of Wales in Swansea conducted a study on 120 healthy female college students with normal thiamine levels (Psychopharmacology, 1997). Either a high dosage of 50 mg of thiamine or a placebo were given.

After two months, the thiamine group more than doubled their scores on the clear-headedness and mood subclasses of the Profile of Mood States test, and increased their quickness on a reaction-time test. The placebo group showed no change on either test.

This study reinforces the findings of Lonsdale and Shamberger, formerly of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, who identified 20 patients with neurotic-like symptoms. Eight had biochemical evidence of thiamine deficiency; 12 did not. All improved substantially after an open trial of thiamine supplementation and reduced sugar intake.

It has been demonstrated elsewhere that the more calories consumed, especially carbohydrates, the more thiamine is required to process the food into energy.

A New Zealand study reported in 1997 that 15 percent of a large group of randomly selected older people had thiamine deficiency. Their subjective quality of life scores and blood pressure improved after taking thiamine. Extra thiamine had no effect on those with preexisting normal levels of thiamine.

The disease-focused medical model assumes nutritional shortfalls aren’t relevant until they become severe enough to cause illness. However, “normal” or RDA levels of nutrients are not in themselves a guarantee of optimum physical and mental functioning.


People who work in Antarctica experience a decline of thyroid hormone products, dulled thinking, lethargy, and mood disturbances. Researchers believe they have found a correlation that may help in treating “wintertime blues” or “Seasonal Affective Disorder” in other settings as well.

Through the production of thyroid hormones, the thyroid gland is involved in regulating metabolism — how the body uses energy and at what speed. When the concentration of thyroid hormone in the blood dips too low (hypothyroidism), metabolism slows and fatigue, poor memory, weight gain and depression set in. Antarctic living can produce a similar condition called “polar T3 syndrome.” (T3 is one of the thyroid hormones.)

Researchers studied 12 subjects living in Antarctica over a period of eleven months (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, January, 2001). Thyroid hormone measurements were taken at the beginning of the experiment (baseline). After 4 months of Antarctic residence without treatment, the 12 underwent a significant decline in cognitive skills and an increase in depressive symptoms, compared with baseline.

For the next 7 months, half of the subjects received L-thyroxine, a thyroid hormone, and the other half a placebo. By the end of the study, the scores of the L-thyroxine group had returned to baseline while the placebo group had worsened.

The researchers used synthetic thyroid hormones in their study. Some nutritionists point out that desiccated whole thyroid preparations can produce even more dramatic results.

The symptoms of hypothyroidism include depression, a sense of being too cold or too hot, fatigue, memory difficulties, heart rate disturbances and hair loss. AACE (American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists) experts recommend that people experiencing some of these symptoms get a blood test that measures thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Nearly 13 million Americans have thyroid disease, says the AACE, but more than half of these cases remain undiagnosed.


More Americans than ever are embracing complementary and alternative therapies, with greatly increased attention and interest expressed by the medical and scientific communities as well.

In December, 1995, the AMA passed a resolution encouraging the scientific evaluation of practices and procedures of unconventional medicine, and encouraging its members to become better informed regarding alternative or unconventional techniques.

Eighty percent of U.S. medical students want training in CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) therapies, and 60 percent of physicians have referred patients to CAM practitioners, according to the National Institute of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine (Jonas, 1997). Sixty-nine percent of Americans use unconventional medical therapies. (Stanford University National Survey, September 1998) and 67 percent of HMO’s offer at least one form of complementary alternative care.

Sixty-four percent of US medical school offer courses in CAM. Of the 123 courses reported, 84 (68%) were stand-alone electives, 38 (31%) were part of required courses, and one (1%) was part of an elective, Thirty-eight courses (31%) were offered by departments of family practice and 14 (11%) by departments of medicine or internal medicine. (JAMA, September 2, 1998)

The CAM marketplace is currently valued at $24 billion or more, with an annual growth rate close to 15% (Rauber; Modern Healthcare September 7, 1998.)


Most Americans being treated for major depression feel that their condition is not fully under control, and many have stopped using prescribed drugs because of side effects, according to a survey released in January (Chicago, Reuters Health).

The survey of 1,001 patients, conducted by the Chicago-based National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association, showed that while 85% of patients felt antidepressant therapy had had a positive effect on their lives, fewer than one quarter said their depression was under complete control in the 2 months prior to the survey, even though they had been taking medication for 3 to 5 years.

Forty-seven percent of those surveyed reported side effects from medication. Of those, 55% had stopped taking the antidepressants altogether and another 17% skipped doses.

“Patients should not be left to believe that they have to tolerate problems with side effects needlessly,” the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association said in a report released with the survey.


Medical research points to accumulated free radical damage as a biochemical basis for part of the mental deterioration associated with aging. Antioxidants may help prevent or stop brain-function decline.

A free radical is an atom or group of atoms that has one or more “free” electrons, thus causing it to be chemically reactive with other substances. These radicals pair up with other atoms in cell linings, etc., and create damage. Antioxidants “grab” these radicals before they can do harm.

The brain and central nervous system are among the most active body tissues. Nerve cells require oxygen to meet high energy-production demands — indeed, the brain represents only 5 percent of body weight but 20 percent of oxygen consumption, more than any other body tissue on a weight basis.

Oxygen-rich blood is sent from the lungs to the brain via cerebral arteries, which tend to become more rigid with age and may also clog with fatty deposits. Oxygen also provokes harmful free radical formation in nerve cells that in turn causes nerve-cell membranes to scar and harden. If not arrested, these declines may progress to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and other disorders. (Lohr & Browning, Psychopharmacology Bulletin, 1995.)

A 22-year study of 442 randomly selected Swiss residents between the ages of 65 and 94 at the end of the study indicates a significant relationship between mental performance and high levels of vitamin C and beta-carotene in the blood.

The antioxidant nutrients beta-carotene and Vitamins C and E and were measured in current blood samples and in frozen blood samples from the same people collected 22 years previously. Seniors with the highest blood levels of vitamin C and beta-carotene scored highest on a variety of memory tests. Those who had high blood levels of vitamin C and beta-carotene when the study began and who had maintained the high levels scored significantly higher on memory tests than those whose antioxidant levels had declined during the 22-year period. Also, those whose antioxidant levels were high 22 years ago were much more likely to have retained high levels. (Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 1997).

Antioxidant enzymes also protect cells. These enzymes are made by the body and often require trace elements to perform their functions. For example, the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase requires zinc, copper and manganese for activation. Superoxide dismutase is particularly effective in neutralizing free radicals generated from oxygen metabolism, and this enzyme may be important in helping protect brain cells (De Deyn et al, 1998).

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) and brahmi (Bacopa monniera) have been used for thousands of years in China and India to enhance brain function. In traditional Chinese medicine, ginkgo is used to help enhance memory and prevent age-related decline in mental performance. In Germany, ginkgo is also widely prescribed–2 million times per month–to treat age-related memory decline, as well as to protect the brain against free radical damage. Ginkgo began to enjoy wider acceptance in the U.S. in 1997 when “A placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial of an extract of Ginkgo biloba for dementia” was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

That 52-week study, conducted under rigorous scientific research conditions, reported noticeable and measurable improvements, according to caregivers, among mild to moderate outpatients with Alzheimer’s disease taking a standardized ginkgo extract compared with those taking a placebo.

In another study, 40 patients diagnosed with resistant depression were randomized to receive either Ginkgo biloba extract or placebo for eight weeks. During the study, patients remained on their antidepressant drugs. In patients treated with ginkgo, there was a decline in the median Hamilton Depression Scale scores from 14 to 7 after four weeks and to 2.5 at eight weeks.

ABOUT is the world’s largest web site devoted exclusively to alternative mental health treatments. It includes a directory of over 150 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 on the site 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. 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.