This May the UK celebrated Mental Health Awareness week for the 17th time, charities, organisations and members of the general public were able to come together to share information and personal stories on the subject of mental illness.

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which an in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.

Mental illness has been a taboo subject in the past, but little by little people are coming together to explain what mental illness is and how it can affect each and every one of us. A recent study carried out by the mental health foundation found that only 13% of the UK population are living with, what is considered, high levels of mental health, meaning that the other 87% have experienced some form of mental illness in the past. So if it is this common why hasn’t it been spoken about until the recent years?

There are many different types of mental illnesses some here is a list of the most common conditions:

  • Depression: Can cause the sufferer extended periods of extreme sadness or emptiness

  • Anxiety: A state of apprehension and psychic tension

  • Bi-Polar: Characterised by periods of mania and depression, as well as intervals of normal mood

  • Schizophrenia: Can cause psychosis and delusions.

  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD): characterised by impulsive tendencies, mood swings and aggression.

There are many reasons why mental health problems can occur such as:

  • Biological factors, this can include brain chemistry and genes.

  • Life experiences, any form of trauma

  • Family history, conditions can be passed through generations

People suffering from mental health disorders can find day to day tasks daunting and difficult. Symptoms do not always present themselves in an obvious manner, however the most common are:

  • Under or over sleeping and eating

  • Voluntary isolation

  • Mood swings

  • No motivation

  • Excessive drinking, smoking and drug abuse

  • Aggressive behaviour towards themselves and others.

Treating mental illness can be very difficult as no two people will suffer from the same disorder. Standard courses of treatment will usually involve prescription drugs and cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT). The medications prescribed to those with mental illnesses will differ from illness to illness as will dosages and frequency,

 Whilst some patients are not comfortable taking prescription pharmaceuticals, there is rarely another option. However, in recent years, the use of cannabinoids have become more and more popular as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical medications.

The most popular and well known cannabinoid will be tetrahydrocannabinol, which is more commonly known as THC. THC is known for its psychoactive properties, as well as its medicinal benefits. Cannabidiol (CBD), unlike THC is not a psychoactive cannabinoid, the research surrounding CBD is now making its way into the public eye due to its medicinal properties.

These studies aimed to measure the in-vivo effects of CBD as they have not been studies in depth, they found that activation of TRPV1 channels may help to explain the anti-psychotic effects. As for cannabidiol’s anxiolytic effects research has confirmed that CBD can help to reduce anxiety in healthy volunteers during a neuroimaging study or after a public speaking simulation. Bergamashi et al found that a high dose of CBD can help to reduce anxiety in patients with social phobias who have not tried to treat it before with conventional treatments.

There have been a range of studies to demonstrate CBD’s antipsychotic effects, using both animals and healthy volunteers. CBD has been found to have distinct similarities with conventional anti-psychotic medication as they have been seen using similar behavioural and neurochemical techniques throughout animal trails. Research from clinical trials has shown that cannabidiol was successful in preventing human experimental psychosis in patients with schizophrenia. The results also suggested that the antipsychotic effects of CBD interact with the striatum and the temporal cortex, two receptors that have been associated with psychosis.

The wide variety of studies have shown us that cannabinoids such as cannabidiol are becoming a more viable, natural alternative treatment to conventional pharmaceuticals, due to its absence of side effects and the fact that it is not addictive.

At times the sufferer may be unaware that they are in need of help, which is why it is important to be able to spot the signs. If you see anyone displaying these types of signs and you are worried, reach out to them, and help them to get the help that they need. We as a country, need to keep working together to bring to light the importance of helping others and to break down the barriers surrounding mental health conditions, it needs to be spoken about on a global scale, without any fear of judgement or dismissal.